Harlem barbershop aims to cut blood pressure rates

NEW YORK - Besides a trim and a shave, customers at Denny Moe's Superstar Barbershop in Harlem can also receive a free blood pressure screening...

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From NBC New York:

Besides a trim and a shave, customers at Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop in Harlem can also receive a free blood pressure screening, The Daily News reported Thursday.

Barbershop owner Dennis (Denny Moe) Mitchell, 45, has been on a mission to keep his customers healthy, especially after Mitchell learned he developed Type 2 diabetes last year.

“I’m all about a healthy Harlem,” Mitchell told the News. “Most black men don’t like to go to doctors.”

According to the most recent New York City Community Health Atlas issued by the Department of Health in 2009, Harlem has the highest rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity in Manhattan.

Between 12 and 18 percent of Harlem residents have diabetes, 32 to 42 percent of residents have been told they have high blood pressure by a medical provider, and 30 to 36 percent of residents are considered obese.

Mitchell said conversations between barbers and customers range from sports to politics. Though customers talk about health, he said, the discussion falls short.

“They talk about health, but they don’t talk about their health,” said Mitchell of his customers. “When we say, ‘How you doing,’ we mean it.”

Physicians with the American Society of Hypertension Outreach trained Mitchell and his staff of eight barbers and three stylists to take blood pressure readings last month.

Dr. Keith Ferdinand, an ASH official who dropped off more than a dozen blood-pressure units at the shop and taught the staff how to use them, said the goal is to detect hypertension before it gets worse among local residents.

“Barbers can be excellent advocates for blood-pressure control,” he told the News. “Many black men seek out the support and insight from their barber on a wide range of issues.”

Forrest Parker, 50, a barbershop customer who has a heart condition, said he thinks the barbershop atmosphere provides a good setting for customers to get their blood pressure read.

“You know you’re going to come in there and laugh and joke,” he said. “Might as well get your blood pressure taken. I think it makes people less apprehensive. It’s not that cold doctor’s waiting room.”

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