Ischemic heart disease more commonly known as coronary heart disease arises when cholesterol accumulates in the coronary arteries and form atherosclerotic plaques. Eventually, this leads to the hardening and constricting of the coronary arteries that carry blood to the heart. The supply of oxygen to the heart muscle is lessened potentially resulting in chest pain (angina pectoris) and finally to heart failure or heart attack (myocardial infarction).
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about two thirds of heart disease-related deaths in the United States are due to coronary heart disease. Risk factors include family history of heart disease, a sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking.
Standard medical treatment includes more exercise, diet changes, smoking cessation, and other lifestyle changes; medications such as antiplatelet medications, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin II receptor blockers, ACE inhibitors, nitrates, and statins; and surgery (coronary artery bypass grafts).
How can acupuncture help?
A systematic review in 2012 of 16 randomized controlled trials discovered that when combined with standard medications, acupuncture decreased the development of acute myocardial infarction. Acupuncture plus medications, compared to acupuncture alone and drugs alone proved better at improving ECGs and in alleviating the symptoms of angina. However, acupuncture alone when compared with standard treatment, revealed a longer delay before its start of action, perhaps suggesting that it may not be a good emergency treatment option for myocardial infarction.
Another randomized controlled trial done in 2011 saw that applying pressure to an acupoint produced the same therapeutic effect as glyceryl trinitrate but providing much better relief and significantly improving angina pectoris symptoms without any harmful side effects. In 2005, another randomized controlled trial was conducted revealing that when combined with drugs, acupuncture was found to be effective and safe for intractable angina pectoris and can boost short-term prognosis compared with drugs alone. A 2004 clinical study evaluating acupuncture’s effect on the Pc 6 acupoint (Neiguan) in patients suffering from acute myocardial infarction and angina pectoris found it more potent than nifedipine and isosorbide dinitrate.
Most, if not all of randomized controlled trials in this field have been conducted in China and it is highly advised for them to be repeated elsewhere. Acupuncture as a potential treatment for angina was very much revealed in a 1999 study that was matched by a Danish control study and complemented by the same study’s reviewer. A treatment that integrated self-care, and acupuncture, with or without drugs, showed that it helped add years to the lives of the patients and was significantly cost-effective (because it basically led to a lesser need for hospitalization and surgery).
A 2011 randomized controlled trial for silent myocardial ischemia revealed that acupuncture may provide a positive therapeutic effect on ST segment depression (an indicator of ischemia), blood pressure, and heart rate that’s a lot better to that of herbal medicine.
Acupuncture can be used for the control of vomiting and nausea in a 2003 partial randomized trial where it was found to work as an adjunctive treatment to drugs for post-heart attack patients.
Acupuncture is known to basically activate the nervous system and bring about the release of neurotransmitters in the blood. The biochemical changes that result affects the homeostatic mechanisms of the body that in turn, promotes emotional and physical well-being.
In China, there have already been several published studies that observed the manners by which acupuncture can affect heart disease. Almost all have utilized electro-stimulation in animal with myocardial ischemia. Studies reveal that acupuncture treatment in Bellingham can provide positive results on heart disease by:
• Slowing down cardiac sympathetic nervous system activity that can help alleviate myocardial ischemia
• Reducing myocardial injury, perhaps partially by decreasing the levels of C-reactive protein and serum cardiac troponin I
• Decreasing myocardial enzymes levels to prevent ischemic myocardial injury
• Activating myocardial opioid receptors, and subsequent signaling by PKC and other protein kinases that helps protect against ischemia
• Stabilizing JNK signaling channels (protein kinases activated by mitogen that send stress stimuli signals that may treat and prevent cardiac hypertrophy
• Stabilizing concentrations of dopamine and norepinephrine in the hypothalamus’s paraventricular nucleus and neural activity in the spinal dorsal roots
• Improving the regulation of nitric oxide synthase and myocardial nitric oxide and lowering the levels of myocardial intracellular calcium that may contribute to its effect in healing myocardial injury
• Alleviating inflammation by aiding in the release of immunomodulatory and vascular factors
• Influencing parts of the brain believed to decrease sensitivity to stress and pain, and helping the analytical brain that’s responsible for worry and anxiety, to deactivate and relax