Barbershop study trimmed black men's hair and blood pressure


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Trim your hair, your beard, your blood pressure? Black men reduced one of their biggest medical risks through a novel project that shows the power of familiar faces and trusted places to improve health.

The project had pharmacists work with dozens of Los Angeles barbershops to test and treat clients. The results, reported Monday at a cardiology conference, have doctors planning to expand the project to more cities nationwide.

"There's open communication in a barbershop. There's a relationship, a trust," said Eric Muhammad, owner of A New You Barbershop, one of the barbers who participated. "We have a lot more influence than just the doctor walking in the door."

Black men have high rates of high blood pressure – a top reading of more than 130 or a bottom one over 80 – and the problems it can cause, such as strokes and heart attacks. Only half of Americans with high pressure have it under control; many don't even know they have the condition.

Churches, beauty salons and other community spots have been used to reach groups that often lack access to doctors, to promote cancer screenings and other services. Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, wanted to reach black men.

"Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men," and many have gone every other week to the same barber for many years, he said. "It almost has a social club feel to it, a delightful, friendly environment" that makes it ideal for improving health.

Victor did a study in 17 Dallas barbershops a few years ago. In that one, barbers tested patrons and referred them to doctors. Improvements were modest.

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