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Traditional Chinese Medicine to Lower Blood Pressure

By Kathleen Rushall

Traditional Chinese medicine is a large practice composed of many aspects. There is acupuncture (the use of small needles to free and aid one’s qi), qi gong (a self healing art that combines meditation and movement), massage therapy, herbs, and various manners of meditation, to name a few. Each practice has specific ailments that it can aid, and some may overlap in their benefits. For example, there is new evidence that the ancient arts of acupuncture and qi gong can help with hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.

High blood pressure directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and stroke, especially when it's present with other risk factors. It can occur in both adults and children, but is most prevalent in people over 35. Hypertension can be a dangerous condition when left untended, but is also a manageable one. Western medicine generally prescribes medication and healthier eating habits to control hypertension. While these lifestyle changes are always beneficial, there are some Eastern practices that may prove even more successful, particularly when in conjunction with those from the West.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) published a study in 2003 that declared qi gong reduced blood pressure and catecholamine (chemical compound) levels in patients with essential hypertension. Fifty-eight patients volunteered to participate in this study and were randomly divided into either a qi gong group or a wait list control group. In response to 10 weeks of qi gong, systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and rate pressure product (RPP) were decreased significantly. The conclusion stated that, “There was a significant reduction of norepinephrine, epinephrine, cortisol, and stress level…these results suggest that qi gong may reduce BP and catecholamines via stabilizing the sympathetic nervous system.” This is just one publication that discusses the benefits of Eastern practices for blood pressure.

The Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego published an article that details the practice of qi gong. In this article it is explained that, “Various types of breathing will affect the body in different ways. Abdominal diaphragmatic breathing will lower the blood pressure, activate peristalsis, and increase the venous return of oxygenated blood. This increases the overall oxygen level of the blood.” In a mind over matter practice, qi gong can help to keep blood pressure under control along with levels of stress, anxiety, and energy.

Medscape Medical News published an article called Blood Pressure Changes with Acupuncture Comparable to Those with ACE Inhibitor Monotherapy. Shelley Wood describes the study that the article was based on and explains that it’s the first randomized trial in the West to test acupuncture against sham needle technique to treat hypertension. The conclusion of the study was positive in regard to acupuncture, stating that “…performed properly, acupuncture may produce blood pressure changes on par with monotherapy in mild-to-moderate hypertension.” This is the best possible effect of acupuncture regarding blood pressure.

Wood also explains that, “After three and six months, the blood pressure reductions disappeared, leading investigators to conclude that ongoing acupuncture treatments would be required to maintain the blood pressure reductions.” So, acupuncture must be consistently practiced to maintain its benefits on high blood pressure. Like healthy eating or exercise, acupuncture treatments should be consistent for the best long-term results. Once high blood pressure occurs, it can last a lifetime. It becomes integral to the quality of one’s life to control and treat high blood pressure. Known as the silent killer because of its lack of symptoms, it makes perfect sense that alternative medical practices that focus on being in tune with one’s own body, such as qi gong or acupuncture, are successful tools for monitoring and lowering blood pressure.

NCBI. Qi gong reduced blood pressure and catecholamine levels of patients with essential hypertension. 2003 Dec. 113 (12): 1691-701.

Wood, Shelley. Blood Pressure Changes with Acupuncture Comparable to Those with ACE Inhibitor Monotherapy. Medscape, Medical News. 2007, June, 15.

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