By Christina Morris, L.Ac.
More then 60 million people have hypertension in the United States. The U.S. Public Health Service reported that hypertension affects more than half of Americans over the age of 65. Forty to sixty percent of those with hypertension have a family history of high blood pressure. This disease is also known as the “silent killer”. Many people with hypertension do not have any of the symptoms that are often associated with the disease such as dizziness, palpitations, fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, sweating, visual disturbances, or impotence. High blood pressure, if left untreated, can lead to stroke, heart and kidney failure. Once diagnosed, many people choose to take medications that often have ill side affects. Research studies and clinical trials on alternative and complimentary therapies are currently being studied around the world.
Studies in the treatment of hypertension with acupuncture have become a popular focus in the health profession. Studies indicate that acupuncture can be an effective form of treatment for hypertension without the side effects of western drugs. ABC News ran a story called “Acupuncture for the Heart?” which aired last February. This news story featured patients with high blood pressure- 140 (systolic) over 90 (diastolic) or higher-that were given a series of 12 acupuncture treatments. Blood pressures dropped during the study and results seem long lasting. Research studies show that acupuncture affects the sympathetic nervous system which in turn influences blood pressure. Amongst the clinical studies, acupuncture has shown to be both safe and effective and can result in long term financial savings.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has its own theories and treatments for hypertension. Acupuncture is capable of both treating hypertension and acting as a preventative medicine. TCM recognizes several patterns that can lead to high blood pressure. Treatment plans can vary from person to person depending on their specific pattern of imbalance. Oriental medicine views disease as imbalances within energetic pathways known as “meridians” or their associated organs. For hypertension, these imbalances are often found within the Liver, Kidney, Heart, and Pericardium. Through observation and a thorough medical history and interview, the acupuncturist is able to distinguish what kind of imbalance is present and determine an appropriate treatment plan for the individual. Acupuncture points may vary from person to person. The goal of acupuncture in the treatment of hypertensive patients is to lower the blood pressure and keep it down.
Diet and lifestyle changes are often very important in maintaining proper blood pressure. Lowering or eliminating salt intake has shown to decrease blood pressure, as well as adding adequate amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium to the diet. It is important to avoid animal fat, eat a healthy diet of fruits, whole grains and vegetables, avoid coffee, alcohol, and smoking. Weight loss (for those who are) overweight and regular exercise have also shown to have positive results in lowering blood pressure. Proper diet and nutrition along with a healthy lifestyle and limiting stressors can prevent many illnesses and aid in keeping your body well balanced. It is important to take responsibility for your own health. That starts with taking good care of your body and educating yourself on how to improve your health. High blood pressure is very treatable but can be deadly if ignored.