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How barbershops can help trim high blood pressure in black men

Black men hoping to lower their high blood pressure may want to pay their favorite barber a visit — and bring a pharmacist along.

>> On AJC.com: Half of US adults now have high blood pressure, based on new guidelines

That’s according to new findings from the Smidt Heart Institute published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, for which a team of scientists studied 319 African-American men at high risk of heart attack and stroke recruited from 52 barbershops in the Los Angeles area.

>> Read more trending news 

For the study, the men were randomly assigned to two groups. Men in the first group met with barbers who encouraged them to speak with specially trained pharmacists during their monthly barbershop appointments.

During their visit to the barbershop, the pharmacists would assess the participants and prescribe appropriate medication. Any monitored blood tests and progress notes were sent to the patron’s primary care provider.

>> 7 ways to lower your blood pressure without medication

In the second group, barbers encouraged the men to seek advice from their respective primary care providers on treatment and lifestyle changes. Patrons were given pamphlets and blood pressure tips while getting their haircuts. There were no pharmacists involved inside the barbershop.

At the start of the study, the average top pressure number (or systolic blood pressure) averaged 154. After six months, it fell by 9 points for customers just given advice and by 27 points for those who saw pharmacists.

Two-thirds of the men who met with both their barbers and pharmacists were able to bring their unhealthy systolic blood pressure levels into the healthy range at that six-month mark.

Only 11.7 percent of the men in the second group experienced a similar difference in the same time period.

>> On AJC.com: Is your medical provider taking your blood pressure all wrong? Experts say probably 

Black men have especially high rates of high blood pressure — a top reading (systolic) over 130 or a bottom one over 80 — and the problems it can cause, such as strokes and heart attacks. Only half of Americans with high pressure have it under control; many don't even know they have the condition.

Marc Sims, a 43-year-old records clerk at a law firm, was a participant of the barbershop and pharmacist group. He didn't know he had high pressure — 175 over 125 — and when he came into the barbershop, the pharmacist said he was at risk of having a stroke.

"It woke me up," said Sims, who has a young son. "All I could think about was me having a stroke and not being here for him. It was time to get my health right."

Medicines lowered his pressure to 125 over 95.

>> On AJC.com: Suffer from hypertension? Sauna baths could help reduce it, study suggests

"Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men," Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and author of the study, told the Associated Press. “And many have gone every other week to the same barber for many years. It almost has a social club feel to it, a delightful, friendly environment" that makes it ideal for improving health.

Victor’s own hypertension was diagnosed by a barber in Dallas during his first barbershop-based study in the 1990s, he said in a news release. That study incorporated 17 Dallas shops, but no pharmacists. The results were modest at best.

But for the new research, the team “added a pharmacist into the mix" so medicines could be prescribed on the spot, he said. "Once you have hypertension, it requires a lifetime commitment to taking medications and making lifestyle changes. It is often challenging to get people who need blood pressure medication to take them, even as costs and side effects have gone down over the years. With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier."

Victor and his team are now onto the next step: to determine if the benefits they found can be sustained for another six months and in black men with more moderate blood pressure levels.

Read the full study at nejm.org.

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Allergic reaction to granola bar kills 12-year-old girl, family says

A Georgia family is in mourning after an allergic reaction to peanuts led to the death of a 12-year-old girl.

>> Watch the news report here

Amanda Huynh had been hospitalized before for allergic reactions to peanuts, but it's still surreal for her brother that she's gone.

"She meant a lot, to me, and i feel like she means a lot to the community," said her brother, Dillon Huynh.

The honor roll student at Lee Middle School in Coweta County was on her way home Tuesday on a school bus when she took a bite of a granola bar.

It was a snack that her family says she had eaten before.

"She would always check everything and make sure it was right," Dillon said.

>> Read more trending news 

But she started to feel sick and school officials were able to call 911 for an ambulance to take her to the hospital.

Her brother shared pictures from her hospital bed where doctors told the family even if she woke up she would have permanent brain damage.

Amanda died Thursday, and her family held her funeral on Sunday.

The principal at Lee Middle School sent a letter to parents about how grief counselors will be at the school in the coming days.

Amanda's brother said he hopes her story will educate others about food allergies.

"(I want people to) live with her in their hearts and really know how serious this is," he said.

>> See a GoFundMe page for the family here

Heart attack sufferers more likely to survive if doctor is away, study says

If you are recovering from cardiac arrest, doctors are essential to the healing process, right? According to a new report, you’re more likely to survive if your cardiologist is away.

>> On AJC.com: You may be able to better avoid heart attacks with this common snack, study says

Researchers from Harvard University recently conducted a study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, to determine the possibility of survival for people who suffer heart attacks when their doctors are away.

To do so, they examined the 30-day survival rate of Medicare heart attack sufferers admitted to the hospital while their doctors were at the five-day Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics meeting.

>> Read more trending news 

After analyzing the results, they found that 19.5 percent of patients died within 30 days of admission when the doctor was present. It was just 16.9 percent when the cardiologist was away.

Some heart attack sufferers require stents, which are tubes inserted into the heart blood vessels to help clear passageways. About 15.3 percent of heart attack patients, who needed stents and were admitted on meeting days, died within 30 days. About 16.7 percent admitted on non-meeting dates died within the month.

>> On AJC.com: You can avoid strokes and heart attacks with these two household fruits, study says

“Which doctor treats you does matter. The types of doctors who attend these meetings seem to provide different care, at least for a subgroup of patients,” coauthor Aunupam Jena said in a statement. “This is an unfortunate paradox given that professional conferences are designed to actually makes us better physicians and improve the care we deliver.”

The scientists said doctors who attend the conferences perform more stents. They’re also more focused on publishing research and more likely to run clinical trials, compared to their peers who do not go to the meetings.

“If doctors focus their attention on a particular kind of procedure, they might not develop other clinical skills that are as important to influencing outcomes as is knowledge of a specific procedure,” Jena said. “Treating a cardiac patient isn't just about cardiac issues—it's about other factors that the patient brings to the hospital.”

Although the researchers have drawn conclusions about cardiac specialists who attend conferences and those who don’t, they said the true differences are still unknown.

That’s why they hope to continue their investigations to explore how a variety of physicians develop their nonprocedural skills over time.

>> On AJC.com: Got heart disease? You may have a better chance of survival if married

“The fact that mortality actually falls for heart attack patients during these conference dates raises important questions about how care might differ during these periods,” Jena said. “What we really want to know is how we can close the gap in outcomes and save more lives.”

Scott Baio's wife, Renee, says she has microvascular brain disease

Actor Scott Baio's wife, Renee, has microvascular brain disease, she tweeted Saturday.

>> Scott Baio denies sexual misconduct allegation by 'Charles in Charge' co-star Nicole Eggert

"Besides having 2 meningioma brain tumors, in Oct 2017 I also learned I have Microvascular Brain Disease," the former stuntwoman wrote in response to a question from a fan.

>> See the tweet here

Scott Baio added: "Unfortunately, this is true. Renee is forever my rock, my life & my soulmate! Toughest person I know."

>> See his tweet here

>> Read more trending news 

The condition refers to "changes to the small blood vessels in the brain" and, "if left untreated, it can contribute to mental decline, strokes, walking and balance problems, and dementia," HealthLine reports.

Read more here.

6th-grader sickened, suspended after unknowingly eating pot-laced cookie at school, family says

A DeKalb County, Georgia, father said his daughter was suspended from middle school for unintentionally eating a marijuana cookie in class.

>> Watch the news report here

Diamond Brooks, 11, said she felt disoriented at Columbia Middle School on Friday morning and couldn't figure out why. Then she said she remembered the cookie that she says a girl in her sixth-grade class offered her an hour earlier.

>> On WSBTV.com: Bus carrying Georgia college team overturns; driver arrested

"I didn't pay attention when I was getting it, so I just got it and ate it," she said.

Diamond Brooks father told WSB-TV's Matt Johnson that an ambulance brought her to a hospital where doctors told them she had marijuana in her system.

>> On WSBTV.com: Police, friends start new search for missing CDC worker

Brooks and her family claim the marijuana came from the cookie.

"If she told me what was in it, I never would have got it from her," Brooks said.

>> On WSBTV.com: Family of man accused of killing son says he should have been locked up before

The DeKalb County School District sent the following statement:

"The student ingested a dessert, but it cannot confirm if it was laced with a drug. Our investigation will shed more light on what occurred."

While the district investigates, Diamond Brooks' family said she will be at home because the district suspended her.

"She didn't know what it was. She didn't intentionally do no drugs," Gary Brooks said.

>> Read more trending news 

Gary Brooks showed Johnson the paperwork doctors gave him when they treated Diamond for confusion on Friday morning.

He said he remembers watching her throw up from her hospital bed.

"If something happened to her, I would have lost it," said Gary Brooks.

Now, he said he loses his temper when thinks about how he has to fight to get his daughter's suspension overturned.

"When you spike somebody's drink, they don't know, so they are supposed to get punished for what happened? That don't make sense," Gary Brooks said.

Scientist: All women over 30 should consider breakthrough test

A pioneering Seattle genome scientist from the University of Washington believes all women older than 30 should consider an at-home cancer risk test, despite some national experts who say the tests aren’t for everyone.

Dr. Mary-Claire King is an American Cancer Society professor and genome scientist at the University of Washington School of Medicine. In 1990, she first discovered and named the BRCA 1 gene, showing that inherited mutations in the genes lead to increased breast cancer risk. It revolutionized how doctors detect cancer by changing their screening procedures for thousands of women who are genetically predisposed for higher cancer risk.

>> Read more trending news 

While everyone’s DNA includes BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, having a mutation can increase a woman’s breast cancer risk from about 10 percent to as much as 80 percent.

“It was a game changer,” King said. “It gave us a tool so that women could learn, woman by woman, their actual risk.”

Color Genomics has released two separate at-home tests that simply require a person to send back a tube of their saliva to test their risk for certain hereditary cancers. 

The kits can be ordered online on the Color website and even on Amazon.com. Depending on the test, Color can test the DNA not only for BRCA mutations that can lead to higher breast cancer and ovarian cancer risk, but also for mutations to other genes that lead to higher risks in breast cancer and other cancers.

Jenn Nudelman, a breast cancer survivor from Issaquah, said she wants to take it herself. She does not have the BRCA gene, but she is the eighth woman in her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. 

“[In 2011, my surgeon] said, ‘It’s likely that your family has a mutation we just haven’t discovered yet,” Nudelman said.

KIRO 7 wanted to know if the Color test actually works and went straight to the expert, King. Her discovery not only paved the way to allowing hereditary cancer risk tests to exist, but she is also an unpaid advisor to Color Genomics who tested the test herself at the request of Color’s founders. 

Her lab sent them 400 of their trickiest DNA samples, challenging them to find the mutations.

“They got every single one correct,” she said. “They even got one mutation that we had missed because it was a gene that back when we first evaluated that patient, that gene hadn’t been known to be a breast cancer gene. So they got 101 percent of the samples correct! They did a perfect job, and I said, ‘OK, you’re serious.’”

She said what’s key is if a test finds any mutations where a person needs to take action, one of Color’s trained genetic counselors will call the patient to deliver the results and walk them through exactly what they mean.

Genetic counselor Nancy Hanson, with Swedish Medical Center's Hereditary Cancer Clinic, told KIRO 7 while many people may expect the results to be clear and easily understandable, they may not be, especially when looking at a larger gene panel. 

That's why she says it's important to go over the results with a genetic counselor. 

Hanson said finding out you have a mutation does not mean you have or will definitely get cancer. And the job of a genetic counselor, by phone or in person, is to help patients understand their options.

“People who have an inherited susceptibility to cancer might never get cancer,” Hanson said. “They just have a dramatically higher risk, and we can make screening recommendations or preventative strategies to help them prevent cancer or catch it early.”

Hanson also looks at other factors, including family medical history, when a woman has had children, and, for example, whether she’s had any hormone replacement therapy. These factors can also modify a person’s risk of cancer over their lifetime.

Preventing and catching cancer early is why King is taking a strong stance when it comes to who should take the Color test.

“I believe that every woman over 30 should consider it,” she said, “and I think we have a choice. We can choose not to do it this year and we can change our minds and do it next year. I don’t think that anyone should be required to have a test, but I think it’s a very good idea. And I think every woman should have the information that enables her to understand what she can learn from such a test."

The Color test analyzes DNA for hereditary cancer risk due to genetic mutations passed down through families, which scientists estimate account for 10 percent to 15 percent of certain cancers.

Most cancers are called “sporadic,” and are not due to any one cause; environmental impacts, exposure to chemicals and pollutants and lifestyle all play a part. So if a person takes the Color test and does not have a mutation in any of the genes tested, it’s not a guarantee they will be free of cancer in their lifetime. 

King recommends the test even though current guidelines from a national panel of experts called the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force say that “testing for BRCA mutations should be done only when an individual has a personal or family history that suggests an inherited cancer susceptibility.” 

These recommendations are echoed on the websites of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the National Cancer Institute.

But King’s own recent work shows people could have mutations without anyone else in their families ever having cancer. And that’s why, she said, more people should get tested.

“The most common misconception about testing for inherited risk of breast cancer is that only women with a severe family history of breast cancer need worry about it,” she said, “because men have genes, too. And a mutation that increases one's chances of breast or ovarian cancer can be passed from a father who will remain unaffected as frequently as from a mother.”

King believes the guidelines will evolve. She also thinks clinical experts may be concerned about other at-home tests such as '23andMe' and 'Ancestry DNA' that are often confused with the Color test, but which are actually based on very different genetic science.

“[That] recreational testing has nothing to do with risk of breast and ovarian cancer,” King said. “I think that organizations that cast such a very broad inclusive net, like Komen, are very concerned that no one be misled. I think there’s a concern about confusing results of those tests [like 23andMe] with results of test that actually measure whether one has a mutation in BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 or one of the sister genes.”

As of late February, Nudelman told KIRO 7 she had ordered the Color test, taken the test, and sent it away to get her results. She wants to know if other genes pose a cancer risk for her or other family members, and she is ready for whatever the test might reveal.

“The test doesn’t give you all the answers,” she said. “The test gives you the information to get more answers … and then you need to be proactive about what you do with that information.”

Pedestrian fatalities up in states with legal marijuana, study says

A report released Wednesday reveals the number of people being hit and killed by cars is on the rise, specifically in states where it’s now legal to sell marijuana.

In the past several years, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has been aggressively targeting the number of pedestrian strikes in the city.

The initiatives seem to be working; the number of people involved in hits is down slightly, but new numbers just out seem to undo that trend.

>> Read more trending news 

In the seven states that have legalized recreational marijuana, pedestrian fatalities went up more than 16 percent in the first six months of 2017, versus the same time period in 2016.

That’s in direct opposition to all other states, which, collectively, saw about a 6 percent decrease in pedestrian fatalities in that same time.

The study was performed by the Governor's Highway Safety Association.

They said what they found is cause for concern.

Of course, there are many factors that come into play when a pedestrian is hit, including time of day and walkers being distracted by cellphones.

But MassDOT has been investigating a lot of money in initiatives to protect pedestrians. Media campaigns, grants and programs have all been focused on safety.

And the GHSA said the connection in fatalities with the legalization of recreational marijuana is worth another look, even as Massachusetts approaches sanctioning the sale of pot in July.

Kate Middleton has emotional reunion with midwife who delivered Princess Charlotte

Duchess Catherine had a happy reunion with one of the midwives who reportedly helped deliver both of her children.

>> Duchess Catherine sparks outrage by not wearing black at BAFTAs

On Tuesday, the duchess visited the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as a royal patron when she ran into Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, who delivered her daughter, Princess Charlotte, and may have even assisted in the delivery of Prince George, according to E! News.

>> Read more trending news 

The duchess received a certificate from Professor Lesley Regan, the president of the college, during her visit and spoke with several nurses about women’s health issues, including the stigma surrounding mental health.

The day wasn’t finished after her visit to the college, as the duchess later received a warm welcome from the Nursing Now campaign. She was taken on a nurse-led tour of St. Thomas’ Hospital, where she met with several nurses and patients at the hospital.

The duchess addressed the crowd to mark the launch of the new campaign during the visit.

She said: “This campaign means a lot to me personally. My great-grandmother and grandmother were both volunteer nurses. They would have learned first-hand from working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment and the Red Cross about the care and compassion that sometimes only nurses can provide.

“Your dedication and professionalism are awe-inspiring. I have been struck today by the enormous range of responsibilities that nurses have, not only in providing access to healthcare, but also in terms of providing a holistic approach to caring for our physical and mental health. You also promote good health and disease prevention. In some parts of the world, nurses are perhaps the only qualified healthcare professionals in their communities, so your work is all the more vital.”

She continued: “I would like to congratulate and thanks all nurses everywhere on what you achieve on a daily basis. The difference you make should not go unrecognized.”

The duchess braved the weather for her day out in London, as it was a snowy day. The palace shared a few photos from the snow-covered estate Tuesday.

Clarence House, the official Twitter account for updates on Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla, also shared a photo of their snowy view.

Nursing mom says she was kicked out of Walmart after taking stand on breastfeeding

A mother is fighting back after she said she was kicked out of a Walmart for taking a stand on breastfeeding her baby in public.

>> Watch the news report here

Sarah Olson, 22, said she was breastfeeding her 5-month-old daughter inside a Subway restaurant in the Monroe, Washington, Walmart store last Friday.

That’s when she said a Subway manager, someone she knows, asked her to cover up or breastfeed at the back of the store.

“He said if it’s my legal right then he could whip out his penis anywhere,” Olson said.

Shocked by what he allegedly said, Olson took her concerns to a Walmart store manager who later asked her to leave the store.

She recorded part of that conversation on her sister’s cellphone and shared it with KIRO.

“Where I am welcome, breastfeeding is welcome, that is state law,” Olson was heard saying on the recording.

To read the state law about breastfeeding, click here.

>> Read more trending news 

Then we heard the manager saying: “Understood, but if you are going to be a distraction or nuisance to people that work here, that’s going to be an issue.” 

Then Olson went on to say, “That’s not my problem; they can turn their heads like this.” Then the manager was heard saying, “Or we can ask you to leave.”

“I was very frustrated,” Olson said. “I wasn’t trying to make a scene, but he thought I was.”

We went to Walmart to get their side of the story. The manager there said she could not comment on the incident and referred us to their corporate office.

This was the statement sent to KIRO:

“We welcome nursing mothers to breastfeed their child in our stores. We apologize to the customer for her experience and appreciate her bringing this matter to our attention.”

KIRO also talked to the owner of the Subway restaurant inside the Walmart. He said he called Olson to apologize and that he gave the Subway manager a warning and educated him on the state’s breastfeeding policy: Women can’t be discriminated against for breastfeeding in public, and the act is not considered “indecent exposure.”

Olson said she has since gone back to Walmart and Subway.

“Yeah, the next day, actually, because I know my rights. I know what I am allowed to do legally,” Olson said.

5-year-old girl died hours after doctor turned her away for being late

A coroner’s inquest into the 2015 death of a 5-year-old British girl found that the child died just hours after a doctor refused to see her for being a few minutes late to her appointment, according to the BBC.

>> Watch the news report here

Shanice Clark has been searching for answers ever since her daughter, Ellie-May, died from bronchial asthma hours after arriving late to an appointment with Dr. Joanne Rowe and being turned away. On Monday, the coroner ruled that Grange Clinic in Newport, Wales “missed” the opportunity to “provide potentially live-saving treatment” to her child, the New York Post reported.

While the clinic has maintained that it operates under a strict “10-minute rule,” Clark insists she and her daughter were only five minutes late after arranging childcare for her infant and catching a bus. However, she claims she had to wait for a receptionist to finish a phone call and for other patients to be checked in, causing her to miss the 10-minute mark, Sky News reported. A clinic worker later indicated that she was 18 minutes late — something Clark disputes.

>> Read more trending news 

According to the coroner, the occasion was the first time the rule had been imposed in regard to an emergency appointment, and Clark was reportedly told to come back in the morning without the doctor even looking at her daughter’s medical records

“From the evidence before me, it is not possible for me to determine with certainty whether an earlier intervention would have altered the outcome for Ellie, but nonetheless Ellie should have been seen by a [doctor] that day, and she was let down by the failures in the system,” the coroner wrote, according to ITV.

Grange Clinic released a statement in response, saying, “Dr. Rowe knows that nothing can be said to Ellie-May’s family to make a difference, but she would like to say how truly sorry she is.”

The Clark family responded by acknowledging the apology and by expressing disappointment “that a finding of neglect was not reached,” saying in a statement via their lawyer, “The family acknowledge an apology from Dr. Rowe, especially as they have been waiting in excess of three years for an outcome and to receive answers to their questions.”

The coroner will now write a report to the clinic and local health board aimed at addressing the incident and preventing similar tragedies in the future. In the meantime, a spokesman for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said it would be “inappropriate to comment whilst we await the coroner’s report.”

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