For some, heart health starts in barbershop and salon chairs

Gentleman’s Grooming Lounge owner Derek Brooks is comfortable speaking with clients about heart health.

WINSTON-SALEM – Barbershops and salons in the Triad are checking their clients’ blood pressure, as part of an effort to reduce health disparities among communities of color.

One study has found long-term reductions in the blood pressure of Black men who met regularly with health professionals at barbershops in Los Angeles County.

Charlz Henry, a licensed cosmetology educator who works with barbershops in the Greensboro area, said many of his clients were in the dark about the health risks related to hypertension.

“It allows them to be aware of what their health concerns are that they were not even aware of,” Henry said. “It’s an opportunity, just to create dialogue and to help each other out.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said because there are often no warning signs of hypertension, measuring blood pressure is the only way to know if it’s higher than normal.

Eight barbershops and salons in the Triad region are participating in the program, led by the American Heart Association and supported by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Andrew Suggs, co-founder and CEO of Live Chair Health, installs health kiosks in salons, and trains and equips barbers and stylists with blood-pressure cuffs.

He said the coronavirus crisis has prompted more barbers to engage with their clients on health issues, and offer information to help reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

“Now more shops are cognizant about protecting their shop from a health standpoint, so it’s given us a great opportunity to bring healthcare or just kind-of accelerate that ‘healthcare and barbershop’ message,” Suggs said.

Derek Brooks, owner of Gentleman’s Grooming Lounge in Winston-Salem, said barbershops are the focal point of neighborhoods. He believes communities will benefit from barbers with some heart-health training.

“Because that’s where the guys come regularly,” Brooks said. “And if you’re really going to get into the community other than churches, but church is even limited, the best way is through our barbershops.”

According to the American Heart Association, Black Americans have a greater prevalence of high blood pressure than other racial or ethnic groups, putting them at increased risk of stroke, heart disease, heart attack and kidney failure.