Hypertension & Acupuncture
Hypertension is another term for high blood pressure and it’s serious. Being known as “the silent killer” can’t be a good thing, but that’s the other name for hypertension. It’s considered ‘silent’ because it usually develops over time, has no obvious symptoms and nearly 1 of 6 people with hypertension don’t even know they have it. That’s about 85 million people in the United States who have hypertension. It’s a ‘killer’ because hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and death. Approximately 7 million people die each year as a result of hypertension.
Some types of hypertension can be managed through lifestyle and diet, such as reducing sources of stress, increasing physical activity, reducing alcohol and tobacco use, and reducing sodium intake, but many require additional intervention to effectively reduce their blood pressure.
Fortunately, both acupuncture and pharmaceutical drugs can be effective in the management of blood pressure. Until recently, medications have had a couple advantages over acupuncture; they have been more accessible and more affordable than acupuncture - which normally runs $60-$120 per session. Gulp! If you're anything like us, high prices like that are more likely to increase my blood pressure than reduce it!
However, the times they-are-a-changing and there are now..
6 Reasons To Consider Acupuncture For Hypertension
- Acupuncture is effective. Research confirms that acupuncture is as effective as, if not more effective than, hypertension medications.
- Acupuncture is side-effect-free. It doesn’t have the kind of negative, sometimes fatal, side-effects that hypertension drugs have.
- Acupuncture can be used in conjunction with hypertension medications and has a synergistic effect, meaning it can actually increase the effective rate of those medications.
- Acupuncture can help manage, reduce or eliminate the side effects of medications.
- Acupuncture can help reduce the harmful impacts of hypertension on the rest of the body, including the all-important kidneys.
- Acupuncture doesn't have to be expensive. Low-cost acupuncture clinics like ours are bucking the status quo & making acupuncture more accessible and affordable. Click the following links for more info.
Click on the headings below to see answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about Hypertension & Acupuncture.
+ What Does The Research Say About Using Acupuncture For Hypertension?
Research has confirmed quite a bit when it comes to the use of acupuncture to reduce or regulate blood pressure.
In 2012, researchers at UCLA discovered that acupuncture activates brain regions that control sympathetic nerve stimulation that results in reduced blood pressure.
A 2014 study found acupuncture to significantly reduce blood pressure for patients with essential hypertension (high blood pressure that doesn’t have a known secondary cause) and it also outperformed captopril (an ACE inhibitor for the reduction of diastolic blood pressure.
Another study from 2014 found acupuncture to be as effective as a popular hypertension drug, nifedipine (a calcium channel blocker with trade names such as Adalat & Procardia). The study found that both methods were able to reduce blood pressure by 30-40 mmHg, but it gets better than that.
In emergency situations, nifedipine, especially in sublingual form, may be preferred since it reduces blood pressure faster (maximum effects were achieved within 5-20 minutes per the study), but researchers found that there were no statistical differences between the effects of nifedipine and acupuncture after 30 to 60 minutes. However, what tilts things in acupuncture’s favor is that acupuncture doesn’t come with the side effects that nifedipine does.
The side effects of nifedipine include lightheadedness, headache, feeling tired, leg swelling, cough, and shortness of breath. It also comes with the hazard of possibly reducing blood pressure too much especially during the first use or if the person taking it is dehydrated. It is not recommended during breastfeeding and it can also result in heart failure. The good news is that acupuncture doesn’t cause heart failure.
Conversely, acupuncture provides a more regulated and homeostatic regulation of blood pressure. What this means is that acupuncture works with the body’s innate blood-regulating abilities to lower blood pressure, and only to the extent that the patient’s body needs it. In fact, the study concluded that acupuncture does not excessively reduce blood pressure the way some pharmaceutical drugs can.
+ What Does Research Say About Combining My Western Medications With Acupuncture To Reduce Blood Pressure?
It is not in our scope of practice to give advice about your western medications, dosage etc, but research has found that this can work well. In fact, one particular study from 2010 found acupuncture to increase the effective rate of felodipine (a calcium channel blocker) by 13.4% (from 73.3% to 86.7%) while some patients have told us that they’ve been able to cut back on their medications (with physician approval, of course) after experiencing good results with acupuncture.
+ So I’m a bit of a curious nerd. How, exactly, acupuncture reduces blood pressure?
Why thanks for asking. We absolutely love nerds!
In 2010, researchers discoverd that acupuncture regulates E-selectin, iNOS and eNOS expression to normal levels, which directly correlates with normalization of blood pressure levels. Further, the researchers noted that the anti-hypertensive action of acupuncture “relies on the improvements in vascular endothelial cellular function” related to the regulation of E-selectin, iNOS and eNOS.
Additional research from 2015 confirms that “In the blood vessel wall, NO (nitrous oxide) is produced mainly from l-arginine by the enzyme endothelial nitrous oxide synthase (eNOS)…Dysfunction in the production and/or availability of NO characterizes endothelial dysfunction, which is associated with cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and atherosclerosis.”
For those who are hungry for more info, E-selectin is involved in the regulation of inflammation. It is a molecule expressed on endothelial cells that is activated by cytokines. Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) is an enzyme that generates nitric oxide (NO) from l-arginine (an amino acid). iNOS is an important enzyme that synthesizes NO and is involved in inflammation and cardiovascular function.
+ Can Chinese Herbs Help Me Manage My Blood Pressure?
Yes! And combining acupuncture with chinese herbs can be even more effective! While many of our patients have reduced their blood pressure by means of acupuncture and/or chinese herbs, it's important to discuss & assess your specific situation instead of blindly recommending an herbal formula for you. For this reason, we suggest you Schedule An Appointment so we can discuss the particulars of your condition to determine the feasibility of using acupuncture and chinese herbs to help reduce your blood pressure.