Addressing High Blood Pressure with Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture

Almost 78 million American adults have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. Additional stats from the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) show that almost half of these people have no control of their high blood pressure. If a person’s blood pressure reading is 140/90 (systolic-diastolic) or higher, that person is considered to have high blood pressure. Up to the age of 45, men are more prone to this condition than women but from the ages 45 to 64, the rates are the same. Over 64 years of age, women tend to have a higher rate. In terms of ethnicity and race,non-Hispanic blacks have the highest percentage (42.7% for men and 47.2% for women), non-Hispanic whites (33.5% men and 30.6% women), and Mexican Americans (30.2% and 28.7%). Another research shows a third of American adults have higher than normal blood pressure ranges that are not quite in the high range or are pre-hypertensive.

What Causes High blood Pressure?

High blood pressure can have various causes. Some of these include:

– Thyroid disease, Kidney disease
– Drug abuse (amphetamine, cocaine)
– Inherited
– Prescription drugs (corticosteroids for asthma, painkillers, hormone therapy, and birth control pills)

Risk factors include:

– Stress
– Poor nutrition
– Lack of physical activity
– Obesity
– Diabetes
– Smoking

Addressing the Root: How TCM Evaluates Hypertension Cases

Apart from blood pressure reading, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners do blood tests on their patients as well as an ASI test or adrenal stress index test, which measures DHEA and cortisol levels. The adrenal glands produce these two hormones in response to stress (fight or flight reaction) and are easily affected by endocrine system imbalances, particularly the thyroid. All possible factors that can contribute to the rise of hypertension are analyzed by these tests. Many of these factors commonly happen, are preventable, but are usually overlooked. When making an evaluation, practitioners will consider the following factors as possible hypertension contributors:

– Food allergies
– Circulatory problems (blood stasis)
– Cortisol resistance elevation
– Metabolic syndrome
– Pain
– Mineral inadequacies
– Immune deficiencies & Inflammation
– Metabolic acidosis

How Blood Pressure is Normalized by Acupuncture

Through Austin’s acupuncture,blood pressure can be regulated by affecting a complicated system called the neuroendocrine system. This system is made up of the endocrine system (mainly the adrenals/thyroid, pituitary, and hypothalamus), and the nervous system. Metabolism and hormones are regulated by the endocrine system. The ANS or autonomic nervous system is divided into two branches, the parasympathetic nervous system, that regulates body processes such as breathing and blood pressure, and the sympathetic nervous system (stress/fight or flight), which aids in the regulation of blood volume and vascular tone of the heart. The CNS (central nervous system) is a network in which the spinal cord and brain communicate with each other. The CNS processes all the information from the external stimuli and body. The nervous system collects all the Information that’s sent via the spinal cord to the brain. The brain then dispatches signals to the body using the same system.

With regards to research, data accumulation is constantly ongoing relating to acupuncture’s normalizing effect on the endocrine system, and how hormone levels are balanced by this treatment. This includes research on reproductive hormones, corticosteroids, and thyroid hormones. Current studies have validated acupuncture’s effects on the ANS (autonomic nervous system) in various studies dealing with (ANS) conditions such as epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), insomnia, and anxiety. There has been a rise in neuroimaging studies showing how acupuncture affects the brain for over a decade, this rise is mainly due to imaging technology advancements. One specific study involved electroacupunctureto stimulate certain areas of the brain generating a hypotensive effect through the CNS.

New studies have demonstrated that an overactive sympathetic nervous system or SNS can contribute to high blood pressure. When the (SNS) becomes over-stimulated or dominant,arterial vasoconstrtion of the heart can happen resulting in a state of hypertension. New studies show that acupuncture can under-regulate the SNS which is one way this treatment aids in reducing high blood pressure. One research shows that electroacupuncture can stimulate some brain neurons. By stimulating the opioids in the body (endorphins,enkephalins, and nociception) this treatment stimulates the neurons that retard SNS activity. These endogenous opioids modulate the baroreflex control system, which is a feedback loop between the heart, brain, spinal cord, CNS, SNS, and PNS. PNS activation results in a slowdown of the activity of the sympathetic nerve,which lowers blood pressure.

Other studies show that acupuncture is even better than a commonly prescribed angiotensin known as Captopril. One test that compared electroacupuncture to Captopril revealed that in controlling blood pressure, electroacupuncture was definitely much better than Captopril at managing blood pressure. One other study conducted in Germany that compared antihypertensive drugs to real acupuncture showed that decreases in blood pressure usingacupuncture are as effective as ACE – inhibitor therapies.

Nerves and Acupoints

Acupuncturists select a specific combination of acupoints when treating hypertension. These points are used based on the symptoms of the patient and the condition’s root causes. There are several options to choose from on: the back or front side of the body, points on the ears, or distal points on the extremities. When selecting back points, of which some are known as back shuacupoints or organ specificacupoints, practitioners usually select Jueyinshu or Bl 14 and Hsinshu or Bl 15. The Jueyinshuand Hsinshuare connected with respect to the pericardium and the heart. These points are situated in the upper thoracic area near where the spinal vertebrae, T4 and T5 are located that innervate the heart by means of the sympathetic nerves. Their corresponding TCM functions are as follows:

Bl 14 Jueyinshu

– Descendand regulate Qi
– Unbind the chest
– Regulation of the heart

BL15 – Hsinshu

– Dispels Heart fire
– Resolves blood stasis
– Nourishes and tonifies the Heart
– Resolvesblood stasis and unbinds the chest
– Calms the spirit (spirit being the (SNS))
– Normalizes Heart Qi

Eastern Medicine Treatment

A dynamic system of healing, Eastern medicine includes different and numerous forms of treatment that the healer can select from. Because of this, modes of treatment for blood pressure may differ from one healer to another based on the healer’s viewpoint and style, and on the symptoms manifested. Herbal medicine basically, is a much more important and primary treatment while acupuncture is considered as an adjunct. The reason for this is that herbs work at a more profound level and can be continued by the patient at home; acupuncture, on the other hand, works at a more superficial level. Combined, these two treatments form a cohesive plan of treatment that addresses the underlying cause of the problem.

In order to be truly effective, treatment should include healthy lifestyle changes that will promote a healthy future on the part of the patient regardless of the cause of his/her high blood pressure. This includes:

– Good qualitysleep
– Meditation, yoga, qi gong, tai chi, and other passive exercises
– Doctor or acupuncturist-recommended physical exercises
– Nutritional and dietary changes

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