Electroacupuncture for High Blood Pressure

Did You Know…that acupuncture may help lower high blood pressure and slash your risk for heart disease and stroke?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 29% of Americans have high blood pressure, and only half have their condition under control.

A new study published in Medical Acupuncture illustrates the promising potential of acupuncture to lower blood pressure and possibly even reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening cardiovascular events.

How Hypertension Affects Your Heart 

Blood pressure is the measure of the amount of blood your heart pumps and the force of resistance to blood flow in your arteries.  Hypertension is a condition that occurs when the long-term pressure against your artery walls is high enough to cause heart problems.

If your heart pumps a lot of blood and your arteries are narrow, you’re likely in the realm of hypertension.  You can suffer from hypertension for years without experiencing any symptoms, but don’t be fooled.  High blood pressure is damaging your blood vessels and heart all the while… unless you find a way to manage it.  That’s where acupuncture comes in.

Acupuncture is based on the meridians, or energy systems of your body, that run along your major nerve pathways.  According to acupuncture practitioners, precisely placed needles on acupoints trigger the nerves to send messages to the brain according to the activated area.  Some areas may manage pain, while others may regulate the cardiovascular system, etc.

What Researchers Discovered About Acupuncture 

Dr. John Longhurst, a University of California, Irvine cardiologist and former director of the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine has been researching the effects of acupuncture on blood pressure for over a decade.  His latest research indicates that acupuncture can significantly lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients for up to 6 weeks.

“This clinical study is the culmination of more than a decade of bench research in this area,” said Longhurst.  “By using Western scientific rigor to validate an ancient Eastern therapy, we feel we have integrated Chinese and Western medicine and provided a beneficial guideline for treating a disease that affects millions in the U.S.”

Seventy percent of the treatment group in the UCI study experienced significant drops in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. 

  Systolic blood pressure measures blood pressure when the
heart contracts (the higher number)
  Diastolic blood pressure measures blood pressure when the
heart is at rest between beats (the lower number)

Systolic blood pressure dropped an average of 6-8 mmHg and diastolic dropped an average of 4 mmHg. Researchers note that results are clinically significant enough to suggest that acupuncture may be a viable treatment for systolic hypertension in patients 60 years and older.

Electroacupuncture in the treatment group also appeared to lower blood pressure markers.  Levels of norepinephrine lowered by as much as 41%.  This hormone causes blood vessels to narrow and blood pressure and blood sugar levels to rise. Electroacupuncture also lowered renin, an enzyme produced by the kidneys that helps regulate blood pressure. Levels of aldosterone, which helps control electrolytes, also declined.

The control group showed no drops in blood pressure or the aforementioned markers of hypertension.

Longhurst sums up the promising potential of electroacupuncture as follows: “Because electroacupuncture decreases both peak and average systolic blood pressure over 24 hours, this therapy may decrease the risk for stroke, peripheral artery disease, heart failure and myocardial infarction in hypertensive patients.”