Black men who get their blood pressure checked while they get a “shape up” at the barber shop could reduce their hypertension rates, according to a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine and reported by HealthDay News.

For the study, researchers assessed almost 1,300 hypertensive customers at 17 black-owned barbershops in Dallas County, Texas, between March 2006 and December 2008. Scientists divided the shops into two groups: intervention and comparison.

Intervention barbershops offered personalized health information and blood pressure checks to almost 600 customers. Comparison shops offered standard education pamphlets but no tests to almost 700 customers.

Researchers found that intervention shop customers lowered their blood pressure by almost 20 percent compared with the 11 percent decrease comparison shop customers experienced. (Scientists also noted the rates of hypertension treatment increased by about 11 percent in the intervention group and a little more than 6 percent in the comparison group.)

One reason behind the result could be that some men are more comfortable seeing their trusted barbers than they are visiting a health care provider.

“Compared with black women, men have less frequent physician contact for preventative care and thus substantially lower rates of hypertension detection, medical treatment and control,” said lead researcher Ronald G. Victor, MD, formerly at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and now at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Uncontrolled hypertension is one of the leading causes of premature disability and death among black men in the United States. The study suggests the barbershop approach might help deliver hypertension prevention and treatment information to the men who need it most.

But this approach also works for the ladies. Click here to find out how salon beauticians helped black women make healthier food choices and fight obesity.