Acupuncture for Heart Disease

Acupuncture is used to treat both serious and benign heart conditions. Acupuncture helps to treat heart disease and additionally mitigates other risk factors that may be involved in the development of your heart disease. Not surprisingly, heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Acupuncture is treatment option that would be a great solo treatment or may be used in combination with western medicine practices, and more importantly, as a preventative measure.

Heart Disease 

Heart disease encompasses a variety of conditions that affect the heart. In heart disease, plaque forms on the wall of the artery when cholesterol lodges. As plaque builds up in the arteries, the inside of the arteries narrows which significantly reduces or completely blocks the flow of blood. Plaque can also break open, and when it does, a blood clot can form on the plaque blocking the flow of blood to the heart.  

Conditions of Heart Disease: 

  • Angina (chest pain) 
  • Myocardial Infarction (also known as heart attack, coronary thrombosis, and cardiac infarction) 
  • Congestive Heart Failure 
  • Valve Disease 
  • Arrythmia (abnormal heart rhythms) 
  • Congenital Heart Disease (general term for deformities of the heart present since birth including septal defects, obstruction defects, and cyanotic heart disease) 
  • Coronary Artery Disease 
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy 
  • Mitral Regurgitation (mitral valve regurgitation, mitral incompetence, or mitral insufficiency) 
  • Pulmonary Stenosis 
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse 
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy 

The top three risk factors of developing heart disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking.  About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors. There are several medical conditions and lifestyle choices that can put people at a higher risk for heart disease. 

Medical Conditions & Lifestyle Risk Factors: 

  • High Blood Pressure 
  • High Blood Cholesterol 
  • Smoking 
  • Diabetes 
  • Overweight & Obesity 
  • Unhealthy Diet 
  • Physical Inactivity 
  • Excessive alcohol use 

The symptoms of heart disease will depend on which type of heart disease you have. It can also differ between men and women in something like heart disease in the blood vessels. Men tend to have chest pain where as women are more likely to have symptoms along with chest pain such as extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and nausea. Most importantly, no matter which type of heart disease you have, it is important to know when to seek out help.  

Symptoms of Heart Disease: 

  • Chest pain 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Fainting 

Heart disease is much easier to treat with early detection, so it is important to express any concerns early on especially if there is a family history of heart disease. Additionally, it is important to, wherever possible, implement measures in your daily life to prevent heart disease, especially if you are susceptible.  

Prevention of Heart Disease: 

  • Quit smoking 
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day 
  • Reduce and manage stress 
  • Practice good hygiene 
  • Eat a well-balanced diet (preferably lower in salt & saturated fat) 
  • If you have other health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, work with your doctor and/or licensed acupuncturist in getting them stabilized/under control. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight 

As you can see, most heart disease can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices, and regular acupuncture is a great addition to any healthy lifestyle.

Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine for Heart Disease 

Acupuncture works for heart disease because it helps the autonomic nervous system by improving the balance between the Vagus (10th cranial nerve) nerve and sympathetic nervous systems.  It also increases nitric oxide production to relax muscles of the blood vessel, allowing more oxygen & nutrient delivery.

The best way to avoid heart disease is to prevent it in the first place. It is important to develop habits that boost your health, instead of hinder it, in order to prevent heart disease from growing worse. 

Along with a healthy lifestyle, regular acupuncture treatments are a great way to reduce multiple risk factors that may lead to heart disease.

Acupuncture Points for Heart Disease: 

  • HT1 – Highest Spring – Ji Quan – this point is located under the arm, and in regards to treating heart disease is used for heart pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, anxiety, and palpitations. 
  • HT9 – Lesser Surge – Shao Chong – this point is located on the pinky, and in regards to treating heart disease is used for heart attack, stroke, heart pain, and even strong stimulation for emergency heart attack. 
  • SP3 – Supreme White – Taibai – located on the bottom of the foot, and in regards to treating heart disease is used for heart pain. 
  • UB15 – Heart Shu – Xin Shu – located near the spine, and in regards to treating heart disease is used for heart palpitations, heart pain, anxiety. 
  • Hu Po – this herbal formulation is used to arrest tremors, stop palpitations, insomnia, and calms the spirit. It is also for coronary heart disease.  
  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Wan – this herbal formulation is for coronary artery disease, angina, and other cardiovascular issues. 

Acupuncture for heart disease research: 

  • A nationwide matched cohort study on patients at risk of coronary heart disease in patients with fibromyalgia was done in 2017 with the goal of understanding whether acupuncture can decrease the risk of heart disease. The 58,999 patients were assessed within the Taiwanese National Health Insurance Research Database that matched the criteria, and the study confirmed that acupuncture did in fact reduce the risk of CHD in patients with fibromyalgia. 
  • A review of studies for the treatment of cardiovascular disease with acupuncture had a goal of identifying factors present in scientific studies related to using acupuncture for a treatment for cardiovascular disease. There was a total of 109 studies used that met the criteria for the review.  The researchers found that acupuncture should be considered as a preventative measure & treatment for heart disease. Additionally, they found that eastern and western practitioners should be collaborative to achieve more effective care of patients experiencing cardiovascular issues. 
  • A randomized clinical trial of acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy for chronic stable angina from 2019 had a goal of testing the efficiency and safety of acupuncture adjunctive therapy to antianginal therapies in reducing the frequency of angina attacks. The trial included 404 patients with chronic stable angina using treatment on the disease-affected meridian, non-affected meridian, sham acupuncture, and no acupuncture or the “wait list” group 3 times a week for 4 weeks. Comparing all the treatment groups, it was found that acupuncture on the disease-affected meridian as an adjunctive treatment showed superior benefits to alleviating angina. 

Studies like these show that eastern and western medicine can be successfully merged in cardiac care.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Acupuncture can help!

  • High Blood Pressure – having high blood pressure makes the heart work much harder than normal which increases its need for oxygen. This can contribute to angina and lead to further, more severe heart problems like a heart attack and stroke. Acupuncture stimulates the release of opioids, which decreases the heart’s activity and helps lowers blood pressure. 
  • Smoking – Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and breathing problems, but it is also a major cause of heart disease (coronary artery disease to be exact).  In fact, according to the CDC, one of every four deaths from heart disease are due to smoking. Acupuncture is helpful for quitting smoking by addressing side effects like jitters, cravings, restlessness, and irritability with the added bonus of detoxification & relaxation. 
  • Weight – obesity is a condition that is associated with high blood pressure and diabetes which increases the risk of developing heart disease. Acupuncture is really helpful as an adjunct tool to lose weight. It can energize the body, regulate elimination, suppress appetite, reduce anxiety, control overeating, and increase the absorption of nutrients with the proper acupuncture points being utilized. 
  • Stress – although it is a normal part of life, if left unmanaged, stress can lead to psychological, emotional, and even physical issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, body pain, or irregular heartbeats. Many American’s are in a constant “fight or flight” mode increasing the heart rate and blood pressure whether it’s from work deadlines or living paycheck to paycheck, which in turn negatively affects digestion, sleep, and heart health. Acupuncture is able to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which allows us to rest, digest, & heal, ultimately helping to bring the body back to a homeostatic state. Having regular treatments allows for the treatment of stress before it can cause larger damage such as heart disease.  
  • Sleep – lack of sleep has not only been linked to heart disease, but also high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Getting less than eight hours of sleep can put you at greater risk of developing heart disease. Acupuncture works in treating sleep conditions without the side effects over over-the-counter and/or prescription sleep aids. These treatments focus on the disharmonies within the body causing the insomnia. 

Acupuncture & Heart Disease

One person every 37 seconds in the United States dies from cardiovascular disease making it around 647,000 Americans each year. It is important to do everything within our power to prevent ourselves from developing or worsening heart disease. Many Americans are susceptible to heart disease because they have family members who had it.  The sooner you know, the earlier you can take-action and take control of your health. Incorporating acupuncture and herbal medicine with a licensed acupuncturist can be a great treatment to incorporate into your efforts to reduce the risk factors for heart disease and improve overall health.

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