In a recent study conducted at the University of California, researchers found that patients suffering from high blood pressure benefited greatly from acupuncture treatments. In fact, in addition to helping lower blood pressure, the treatments were able to assist in decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
To be more specific, researchers with the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine found that when patients with high blood pressure were treated with acupuncture, they achieved a decline in their blood pressure that persisted for up to a month and a half.
Results of the study are published in Medical Acupuncture.
This study is among the first to scientifically authenticate the efficacy of using the traditional practice from ancient China to remedy minor and moderate hypertension. The study indicates that consistent acupuncture sessions could be beneficial for people who need to manage their blood pressure levels and decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease.
But the results did not happen overnight. They are the fruits of more than a decade of work in the area of acupuncture and blood pressure.
According to Dr. John Longhurst, a cardiologist at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and former director of the Samueli Center, by using modern technology to confirm the effectiveness of this ancient therapy, they were able to scientifically support the use of acupuncture and provide a helpful guideline to the millions of people in the U.S. who suffer from hypertension.
As part of the study, the team conducted tests on 65 patients with high blood pressure who were not receiving any medication for hypertension. The patients were divided arbitrarily into two groups. Both the groups were treated with electro-acupuncture using low-intensity electrical stimulation at UCI’s Institute for Clinical & Translational Science.
In one group of 33 participants, the electrical stimulation was given on the inside of each wrist and also just below each knee.
In the other group the participants were administered the electrical stimulation down the forearm and also the lower part of their legs.
In the first group (wrist and below knee), 70 percent of the patients showed a noticeable drop in blood pressure rates. The numbers dropped an average of 6 to 8 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and 4 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure.
These numbers stayed at their improved state for a month and a half.
The researchers also noted other changes that had significant health benefits. For one, 41 percent of the participants showed significant decline of norepinephrine levels in the blood. Norepinephrine constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure and glucose levels.
And two, the electro-acupuncture decreased aldosterone, a hormone that regulates electrolytes.
However, in the group who received electro-acupuncture at other pressure points along the forearm and lower leg, there were no significant blood pressure changes.
Although the reduction in blood pressure readings in the first group is relatively small, the researchers noted they were clinically meaningful and the technique could be very valuable in treating systolic hypertension in patients over 60.
As both peak and average systolic blood pressure levels dropped in a span of 24 hours, the team is hopeful electro-acupuncture could help reduce the chances of stroke, peripheral artery disease, heart failure and myocardial infarction in hypertensive patients.