The men seen by the pharmacist had mean drops of 27 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 18 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure. Specifically, men who received frequent monitoring and medication management from a specially-trained pharmacist who met them monthly in their barbershop lowered their systolic blood pressure by 21 mm Hg more, on average, compared with men who were encouraged by their barber to follow up with a doctor and to make healthy lifestyle choices. For the intervention, barbers encouraged meetings in barbershops with specialty-trained pharmacists who prescribed drug therapy, while the active control approach had barbers encourage lifestyle modification and doctor appointments.
Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who led the study, said barbershops are the ideal place to reach Black men for health screenings, according to the Associated Press.
Ciantel Blyler, a clinical pharmacist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and co-author of the study, told CNN that she was "surprised" by the results.
Researchers may have identified a promising setting to control hypertension among black men-a group with an inordinate burden of high blood pressure and related adverse events.
As CNN reported, Dr. Joseph Ravenell, an internist at NYU Langone Health, and his colleagues previously researched how barbershops and other community-based strategies could help diagnose and treat hypertension and colorectal cancer.
This disparity is influenced by several factors, including black men's experiences with racism and discrimination, access to health insurance, mistrust for the health care system and social support, the report further detailed. Pharmacist visits made the therapy convenient for recipients, who were easily reached because they were loyal regulars at the barbershops. During each pharmacist visit, the men in this group received a blood pressure evaluation and a finger-stick blood test, which the pharmacist used to evaluate each man's response to blood pressure medications and adjust prescriptions as needed.
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The researchers also pointed out an additional 3.5 million black men in the USA are considered to have hypertension now that the ACC and American Heart Association have dropped the lower threshold to 130/80 mm Hg. Poor diets, lack of exercise and other bad habits cause most high blood pressure. But most hypertensive black men still have blood pressures above the old barrier of 140/90. At the six-month mark, 11.7% of the group brought their blood pressure into the healthy range, the study found.
"This is a very large effect for a hypertension trial of any kind", Victor said.
Victor said trust and rapport is essential because high blood pressure a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and lifestyle changes.
Researchers are now studying whether the benefits can be sustained for an additional six months.
The study was funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, among other funding sources. The results were announced March 12 at the American College of Cardiology conference in Orlando, Florida.
Victor also hopes to expand the program to other parts of the country, including African-American men with more moderate blood pressure levels. The ACC leads in the formation of health policy, standards and guidelines.