Researchers found that blood pressure levels declined slightly in a small group of patients treated 30 minutes a week with “electroacupuncture” - where needles carry low-level electrical stimulation - at specific points of the body.
“Potentially, blood pressure can be kept low with a monthly follow-up treatment,” said study co-author Dr. John Longhurst, a cardiologist at the University of California, Irvine.
A estimated 70 million U.S. adults - one in 3 - have high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s believed that only half have their condition under control. High blood pressure can lead to stroke and heart disease.
Blood pressure can often be lowered by becoming more fit, taking medications or both. But these approaches don’t work for everyone, and the medication can cause side effects, especially among the elderly.
Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese therapy, is increasingly viewed as a possible alternative, the researchers said in background notes with the study. Practitioners insert thin needles into key points on the body in an attempt to rebalance the flow of energy.
High blood pressure was defined as 140-180 mm Hg over 90-99 mm Hg. None of the participants was taking blood pressure medication.
“A noticeable drop in blood pressure was observed in 70% of the patients treated at the effective points, an average of 6 to 8 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure [the top number] and 4 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure [the lower number],” Longhurst said.
These changes were considered slow and long-lasting - persisting for about six weeks, the study found.
The researchers also found that blood pressure readings dipped further in a group of “high responders” that underwent monthly treatment for six more months.
Longhurst said further studies on acupuncture’s potential for high blood pressure are warranted. But, no additional research is planned, he said, because it’s difficult to find funding.
The study was published recently in the journal Medical Acupuncture.
The last statement is the most insightful - no additional research is planned because it’s difficult to find funding. A vast majority of studies are not about learning more about human health and disease. Studies are done to develop new drugs to sell to the public.
This small study is very promising, but were is the profit? Unfortunately, I was unable to access the original study to see where the funding came from. Medical Acupuncture is a peer reviewed journal that publishes research and articles written by physicians on acupuncture, but access is limited to the journal subscribers.
High blood pressure is one aspect of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome degrades general health leading to diabetes and heart disease. If 1 in 3 Americans have high blood pressure that’s potentially 70 million prescriptions for high blood pressure medication. Image the savings in cost, side effects, and quality of life if 50 million people could avoid and eliminate those drugs.
The Bottom Line:
High blood pressure is a results of poor lifestyle. Weight loss and regular exercise are the keys to reducing high blood pressure. However, if those paths aren’t working for you, try adding acupuncture to the protocol.
Source: September 2, 2015 National Institutes of Health