Help for High Blood Pressure with Acupuncture
Let us think of the circulatory system as plumbing. The heart is the water pump, and the veins and arteries are pipes. The condition of hypertension describes a system wherein the pump has to work harder and faster than it should. This happens for two reasons-one, because the pipes are clogged and pinched and the pump has to push harder and faster to get the same amount of liquid through the channels, and/or, two, because the network of pipes has become extended, covering a larger area, and the pump has to push more liquid, further. Often while this kind of a problem is growing and becoming more serious within a plumbing system, there are no signs until something finally breaks down, and a pipe springs a leak. Unfortunately, the same is true of the human body. Often, a person feels no symptoms of high blood pressure (hypertension) until the condition is found by a doctor’s measurements or damage has already been done to the circulatory organs.
Blood vessels, like pipes, become clogged with build-up of waste that sticks to the inside walls and reduces the circumference of the tubes. Also, vessels can become constricted and spasm due to the over-activity of the bundles of nerves that surround them. This repetitive, in some cases constant, tightening of the nerves is often caused by stress and anxiety, and it causes the vessel walls to lose their flexibility and become rigid. A healthy vein or artery has some elasticity that allows it to respond to variances in pressure, which naturally occur when we exercises or are stimulated y certain situations or emotions that cause blood pressure to rise. An artery that is stiff with fatty and calcified deposits or chronically constricted with nervous tension cannot withstand an increase in pressure very well.
When overall body mass increases due to weight gain, managing the amounts and types of fats and cholesterol in our diets, reducing stress and getting adequate exercise will go some distance in helping to create a system in which the heart is not overtaxed, and clean, supple blood vessels can do their jobs appropriately.
However, there are many cases in which the body needs extra help to achieve and maintain healthy blood pressure levels-diet and exercise alone may not accomplish the job. In Western medicine, the treatment for managing hypertension usually involves prescription medications: diuretics, ACE inhibitors, or beta-blockers. These medicines produce various chemical actions to alter the force of the heart’s heating or prevent increases in blood pressure by suppressing enzymes or hormones that control those functions. In the case of diuretics, they simply reduce the overall amount of fluid travelling though the vessel. None of these pharmacological remedies actually affect the sources of the problem either the plaque built up within the arteries, or the constriction of the nerves around the arteries. And many high blood pressure medications come with unfavorable side effects.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can be an effective alternative modality for treating the source of this condition, whether on its own, combined with lifestyle changes, or as an adjunct to a prescription medication. Acupuncture works of the parasympathetic nervous system, simultaneously stimulating and relaxing the bundles of nerves that surround the arteries. This helps to open up blockages and create more flexibility within the network of blood vessels. In the same way, acupuncture works upon the action of the heart valves so that they can do their job of contracting and relaxing with less pressure and effort. A treatment may also be customized for each patient to help alleviate stresses in the mind and body, improve sleep, and release excess heat or “fire” from body.
TCM seeks to treat the whole person, and prevent illness before it arises. It is advisable for everyone to seek regular maintenance treatment in order to prevent conditions like hypertension from getting out of control. While high blood pressure can be controlled in various ways, because it is a possible indicator of more serious heart disease, it should never be ignored.