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Could trips to the barber be as good for your health as for your hair?

barber shop.jpg

The barbershop has been the subject of some interesting sociological and medical studies over the years. The man or woman that combs your hair and cuts your bangs, it turns out, has a way of shaping your opinions and behaviors as well.

A study published online yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that barbers might play a particularly important role in the lives of African-American men: helping them to better control high blood pressure problems.

According to the study release:

Barbers for 10 months offered blood pressure checks during men's haircuts and promoted physician follow-up with personalized health education for customers with high blood pressure. This enhanced screening program markedly improved blood pressure levels among the barbershops' patrons...

Uncontrolled hypertension is one of the most prevalent causes of premature disability and death among African-Americans. African-American men have the highest death rate from hypertension of any race, ethnic and gender group in the United States - three times higher than white men.

"What we learned from this trial is that the benefits of intensive blood pressure screening are enhanced when barbers are empowered to become healthcare extenders to help combat this epidemic of the silent killer in their community"," said [Ronald Victor, MD] the Burns and Allen Chair in Cardiology Research. "Barbers, whose historical predecessors were barber-surgeons, are a unique work force of potential community health advocates because of their loyal clientele."

The research was conducted by scientists at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. The study will be published in print in Feb. 2011.

Photo by C. G. P. Grey

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