It’s well known that exercise and healthy eating can lower your risk of stroke, but how about a shave?
It’s a Saturday afternoon in the rolling neighborhoods of L.A. The sun is gleaming down and women, men and families are bustling about getting groceries done, doing laundry and making sure every chore is done before Monday comes. Including, getting a haircut.
Which is an easy task, if you’ve already got an appointment lined up. And it comes with some special side benefits, if you happen to visit Eric Muhammad’s place, A New You Barbershop, based in Inglewood.
There, as an African American man, you can get a haircut and shave. And you can also have your blood pressure monitored, which is a good thing.
For African American men living in the United States, uncontrolled high blood pressure is the leading cause of early disability and worse.
“It’s the silent killer, and it has cost the lives and health of a lot of good men,” says Muhammad. “It’s a no-brainer that black men are at the highest risk of high blood pressure.”
Why is it so often untreated? Among other factors, many men wait too long to have their blood pressure checked. They aren’t visiting the doctor regularly enough to catch it early on. And many are simply afraid to have it looked at in the first place.
In response to this, Muhammad and lead author Ronald G. Victor, MD, associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute decided to conduct a study in which participants were able to visit with a pharmacist at the barber, and receive monitoring and medication right there.
The specially trained experts met with over 300 African American men monthly. Each had a systolic blood pressure reading of more than 140 mmHg, placing them at high risk of heart attack and stroke.
Through the interventions, the men had blood pressure medication subscribed to them, and progress notes sent to their primary care providers, as follow-up.
And it worked. After six months, almost two-thirds of participants in the group brought their blood pressure into the healthy range.
The big difference noted, was the location.
“There is a different level of trust and respect that’s earned when you meet people where they are, instead of in a hospital or clinic,” said C. Adair Blyler, DPharm, CHC, a pharmacist who treated patrons. “The rapport I’ve been able to establish with this group of patients has been unlike any other I’ve had in my professional career.”
It has to do with making people feel more comfortable, Muhammad feels.
“A big takeaway from this study is to release the fears,” he said. “We cannot fear what the doctor will tell us. Dr. Victor has a very sincere desire to bring down blood pressure in people in general, and in black men in particular. Since I could see his heart in this, it was easy for me to offer assistance.”
Researchers say they are hoping to do complete a second phase to the study. Why? They’d like to see if the benefits can be sustained for another six months.
Congratulations team, on a job well done.