Remember those stories our mothers (and fathers) read to us as children? Well, it appears that storytelling is good not just for children, but for adults too, even those with medical diseases like high blood pressure. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at 300 African American patients with high blood pressure. Half of the participants in the study were randomly assigned to watch a series of DVDs that featured patients, not actors, but actual patients, from that practice. The patients in the DVDs talked about their struggles and experiences with blood pressure and what they had learned from it. The other half of the participants in the study did not receive those DVDs and went about their usual treatments.
The researchers found significant impacts of lowering blood pressure for the group that had only seen about 90 minutes over six months of DVDs. During the time of the study, their systolic blood pressure, that top number, went down by 17 points, compared with only six points in the comparison group. Results like that are actually as effective as many of the current drugs offered right now for high blood pressure. If this were a drug, it would be a stock worth buying!
This study really speaks to the importance of trust in seeing someone else who you can relate to, not only a doctor giving you facts or telling you what to do, but someone else you trust who knows your perspective and feelings. One of the special things about a study like this is that it opens up new avenues of research with great potential to build community. Maybe we should start developing these local stories for use in our own practices and clinics to help bring all our patients’ blood pressures down.