Acupuncture to manage hypertension

High blood pressure, clinically referred to as hypertension, is a major problem in the Western world. This chronic condition has become increasingly prevalent as poor diet, smoking, and drinking have contributed to obesity and other conditions that cause and exacerbate high blood pressure. Managing and treating hypertension is an important point of medical concern as the condition is a risk factor for a wealth of other serious conditions, and in this article we look at how acupuncture can be used as a tool to manage hypertension.

What is hypertension?

Hypertension is diagnosed when a person’s blood pressure is above the normal range, and remains higher than normal for an extended period of time. Blood is carried through a number of different arteries and veins throughout the body, and blood pressure is two measures derived from the pressure of blood passing through your arteries during two different phases of a heartbeat.

When measuring blood pressure, the first number given will be your systolic blood pressure, and the second your diastolic BP providing readings like 100mmHg/60mmHg (mmHg being the unit of measurement also referred to as millimetres of mercury). The normal range is 100-140mmHg systolic pressure and 60-90mmHg diastolic pressure, High blood pressure is diagnosed if a person’s BP is consistently above 140/90mmHg.

Hypertension is most often caused by poor diet, obesity, smoking, and other lifestyle factors. It is also caused by genetic components and stress, and many conditions can also feature hypertension as a symptom. The condition itself is a serious risk factor for a number of dangerous illnesses including heart failure, myocardial infarction (heart attacks), kidney disease, ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke, and many others. If left unchecked, hypertension increases the risk of one of these conditions occurring, and also progressively worsens to cause kidney and vascular damage.

At least a quarter of the UK’s total population are thought to have hypertension, half of whom will be over the age of 60. Treating and managing hypertension, particularly at early stages of the condition, is a priority as it can prevent the onset of the more dangerous conditions mentioned previously in this article. 

Perhaps the most important step towards treating hypertension is to address important lifestyle factors that are largely responsible for most cases of hypertension. These involve dietary adjustments and the inclusion of regular exercise. In cases here hypertension is a consequence of stress or anxiety issues, then medication or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are employed to provide sufferers with a means by which to address the underlying issues leading to hypertension.

Because of its prevalence and seriousness, hypertension is a major concern for health authorities here in the UK. Acupuncture can, according to some sources, offer a means by which hypertension can be safely and effectively treated.

Can acupuncture help in the management of hypertension?

Acupuncture is a treatment with a long history in the Far East, despite this however, high quality research into the effectiveness of acupuncture remains lacking. When looking at whether or not acupuncture can offer a viable means by which to treat hypertension, the first and perhaps most important point to make is that there is still a lack of convincing evidence to support or debunk acupuncture’s usefulness in this area.

That being said there are some positive indications that suggest acupuncture, and some of its sister treatments like electroacupuncture (the application of small amounts of electricity to stimulate acupoints) and moxibustion (the burning of a herb called moxa to stimulate acupoints), have some potentially useful applications in treating hypertension.

It is thought by modern practitioners that acupuncture works by stimulating parts of the nervous system involved in the release of important chemicals called neurotransmitters. These are vital signals that regulate many different physiological functions, including the mechanisms responsible for the contraction (vasoconstrictors) and relaxation (vasodilators) of blood vessels.

The evidence to hand suggests that acupuncture can reduce blood pressure through the release of these agents. It is also thought that acupuncture can trigger a reduction in stress which can relieve high blood pressure.

While acupuncture can have some potentially valuable applications in the treatment of a number of different conditions, it is a tool to be used in conjunction with routine medical care. Hypertension can be caused by a number of factors, and can lead to complex medical problems, and as such needs to be monitored and assessed by your doctor for your wellbeing. If you are pursuing acupuncture, you should talk to your doctor about the treatment and ensure that it complements your medical care.

For acupuncture to be a safe avenue of treatment it is important that you find a trained, qualified professional with the qualifications and experience necessary to make for a safe, healthy, and effective treatment.

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