When the heart beats, the pressure of the blood in the arteries pushes against the artery walls, much as water presses against the walls of a hose. This is the top number of a blood pressure reading. When the heart rests between beats (or the water in the hose is shut off) the resting pressure is measured as the bottom number. In either case, a high number indicates that the heart is working harder than is normal. This puts an extra strain on the heart and leads to increasing stiffness in the arteries.
High blood pressure happens to everyone from time to time, usually when experiencing a stressful situation. When high blood pressure continues for an extended period of time it is known as hypertension. In the United States nearly one-third of adults suffer from hypertension.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
Unless blood pressure is severely elevated often there are no obvious symptoms. Even so, the harmful effects of hypertension can become serious and obvious.
Before this stage symptoms may arise, including sudden dizziness, nervousness, flushed face, restlessness, severe headaches, difficult breathing, nose bleeds, depression, short temper, excessive urination, vision problems, muscle weakness, and more. Any of these initially unexplained symptoms should be brought to a doctor’s attention.
Causes of Hypertension
Obesity is a major cause of hypertension because it causes a shrinkage in the diameter of the blood vessels (the hose gets skinnier), making it harder for blood to move freely.
Systemic inflammation, measured by the blood test of C-reactive protein, is another major cause. Blood vessel stiffness and blockage can occur as a result of long-term. Both excess sugar and salt aggravate this kind of inflammation.
A better-known cause of hypertension is hardening of the arteries, the blood vessels being unable to expand as needed.
Two major classes of drugs are used in Western medicine to relieve stiffness in the artery walls: ace inhibitors such as Lisinopril, and angiotension II blockers such as Benicar. Other common drug treatments are diuretics, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers, alpha-agonists and renin inhibitors. None are a cure, for if the patient stops taking the drug the hypertensive symptoms return.
High blood pressure medications often have such side effects as dizziness, headache, tiredness and coughing, and some may cause cystitis and low libido.
The Acupuncture Approach
Long-time Eastern acupuncture practice was recently confirmed in a study in the West. A University of California study, in 2012, found that acupuncture treatments for high blood pressure and hypertension excites the opioid chemicals in the brain, thereby reducing the excitatory responses of the cardiovascular system. This slowly decreases the heart activity and need for oxygen, thereby lowering blood pressure. In addition, nitric oxide levels begin to increase, thereby relaxing the blood vessels. These results have a “side effect” of promoting the body’s healing of other heart-related conditions.
Contact our office to learn more about Acupuncture for High Blood Pressure!
Acupuncture and Electro-Therapeutics Research, Vol. 37, no. 4, 2012