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Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture Can Help Lower and Stabilize High Blood Pressure

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Based on figures provided by the American Heart Association almost 78 million adults in the US suffer from high blood pressure. That’s one out of three adults Americans. Additional data gathered by NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) spanning the years 2007 to 2010 show that about half of these adults do not have their high blood pressure under control. You have high blood pressure if your systolic reading is 140 or above and diastolic reading is 90 or above. Up to the age of 45, more men suffer from this condition than women but from the ages 45 to 64, the percentage is about the same. By the age of 64 and above, women have a higher percentage rate. In another survey, a third of adult Americans have blood pressure ranges that are higher than normal but not quite in the high range, or are pre-hypertensive.

What Are the Causes of High Blood Pressure?

There are several factors that may chronically raise your blood pressure levels. Here are a few of them:

Family History
Drug abuse (amphetamine, cocaine)
Prescription drugs (corticosteroid drugs for asthma, analgesics, hormone therapy, birth control pills)
Thyroid disease
Kidney disease

Risk factors include:

Stress
Poor nutrition
Sedentary life/lack of physical activity
Obesity
Diabetes
Smoking

Ways to Diagnose High Blood Pressure

Besides a blood pressure reading, people can know if they have high blood pressure by getting an ASI (adrenal stress index) test that measures levels of DHEA and cortisol or a blood test. DHEA and cortisol are hormones that are produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. These are the hormones that bring about a fight or flight response in us and are easily affected by imbalances in the endocrine system, specifically, in the thyroid gland. These tests can help us know what factors have been responsible for the development of high blood pressure. Unfortunately, many of these factors commonly occur in our lives and they can be avoided but more often not are overlooked. When making an evaluation, we deem the following elements potentially contribute to high blood pressure/hypertension:

Circulatory blockages (such as micro blood stasis)
Pain
Immune deficiencies
Inflammatory conditions
Metabolic acidosis
Metabolic syndrome
Mineral insufficiencies
Food allergies
Cortisol resistance and elevation

How Can Acupuncture in Tarzana Stabilize Our Blood Pressure?

Acupuncture stabilizes blood pressure by influencing the nervous system and the neuroendocrine system, a complex system that’s made up of the adrenal glands, thyroid gland, pituitary gland, and the hypothalamus. Our metabolism and hormones are both regulated by our endocrine system. The ANS or autonomous nervous system has two components: The sympathetic nervous system from which the fight or flight response comes from and which plays a role in regulating the blood volume and vascular tone of the heart and the PMS or parasympathetic nervous system (digest and rest), that regulates body processes such as breathing and blood pressure; the CNS or central nervous system is a two-way communication street comprising the spinal cord (vertebrae) and the brain. The CNS processes all information from external stimuli and the body. Information is gathered by the nervous system, dispatched through the vertebrae to the brain. The brain then transmits signals to the body through the same process.

With regards to research, there are ongoing studies dealing with acupuncture’s regulatory effect on the endocrine system, and how acupuncture can help rebalance the levels of hormone in the body. These studies dealt with reproductive hormones, corticosteroids, and thyroid hormones. Recent research also shows the effects of acupuncture on the autonomic nervous system via various studies dealing with ANS disorders such as epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), insomnia, and anxiety. There has been a rise in neuroimaging studies on acupuncture’s effects on brain centers over the past ten years. This is due to the significant headways that have been achieved in the realm of imaging technologies. An electroacupuncture study showed the treatment stimulating certain regions of the brain generating a hypotensive effect through the central nervous system.

Recent studies suggest that an overactive sympathetic nervous system can significantly contribute to high blood. When the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) becomes dominant or over-stimulated, it causes the heart arteries to constrict; which results in high blood pressure. Current research efforts reveal that acupuncture follows a mechanism that down-regulates the SNS resulting in the lowering of blood pressure. One research saw that electroacupuncture stimulates the brain neurons, which slows down SNS activity by activating nociceptin and the opioid system (enkephalins and endorphins). These opioids balance the baroreflex control system, which is a feedback loop between the parasympathetic nervous system, SNS, central nervous system (vertebrae), the brain, and the heart. The parasympathetic nervous system inhibits SNS activity when the sympathetic nerve activity is stimulated in this feedback loop, which in the process reduces blood pressure.

Certain studies have shown that acupuncture can outperform a commonly prescribed angiotensin called Captopril. This is a drug prescribed by doctors to help lower high blood pressure. One of these studies compared electroacupuncture to Captopril and showed that electroacupuncture produced more significant results in controlling blood pressure than Western medication (Captoril). Another study conducted in Germany compared the effects of acupuncture to antihypertensive drugs. The results revealed acupuncture’s ability to lower blood pressure was comparable to mono-therapies using ACE – inhibitors.

Acupuncture Points and Nerves

In addressing hypertension, acupuncturists may choose a specific combination of acupuncture points that may depend on the specific manifestations of high blood pressure and their root causes. An acupuncturist can have several options to choose from on (e.g., auricular acupoints, distal points on the extremities, back or front side of the body). When acupuncturists select back points, some of which are points that are organ specific (which can be Heart specific) or called back shu points, they usually select the Bl 14 (Tsueyinshu) or Bl 15 (Hsinshu). These two acupoints are related to the heart and pericardium respectively. They are found in the upper thoracic region at the T4 and T5 spinal cord that innervate the heart through the sympathetic nerves. The TCM functions of these acupoints are as follows:

BL 14 (Tsueyinshu)

Lowers and normalizes Qi
Unbinds the chest
Stabilizes the heart

BL 15 (Hsinshu)

Cleanses heart fire
Removes blood stasis and releases the chest
Soothes the Shen (spirit or the sympathetic nervous system)
Normalizes Heart Qi
Nourishes and tonifies the Heart

Eastern Medicine Treatment of High Blood Pressure

Eastern medicine is made up of several variations and forms of treatments that a practitioner can choose from. Because of this, the blood pressure treatment protocols may differ from practitioner to practitioner based on their viewpoint and style, as well as on the manifestations of the disease. In most treatment plans, herbal therapy usually takes precedence. Acupuncture is considered an adjunct therapy. Why is this so? Because acupuncture works at a superficial level while herbs tend to have a more profound effect and can continued to be used at home. However, when these two modalities are used alongside each other, they become a cohesive treatment strategy that is extremely effective at resolving the symptoms and their root cause.

Regardless of the cause of one’s high blood pressure, for any therapy to be truly effective, changes in the person’s lifestyle is needed that can lead to the healthy future of the heart. These changes include:

Adequate and quality sleep
Light exercise such as meditation, yoga, Qigong, or Tai chi
Physical exercise approved by your doctor/acupuncturist
Nutritional and dietary changes

Written by Valerie

July 4th, 2017 at 7:58 pm

Posted in Acupuncture

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