Acupuncture: Ancient Chinese Art Lowers Blood Pressure Risk

First Posted: Aug 20, 2015 04:45 PM EDT

New findings published in the journal Medical Acupuncture reveal that certain ancient Chinese practices, including acupuncture treatments, could help to lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients.

Researchers at the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine found that this ancient Chinese practice is beneficial in treating mild to moderate hypertension, indicating that regular use could help to control blood pressure and even reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

"This clinical study is the culmination of more than a decade of bench research in this area," said Dr. John Longhurst, a University of California, Irvine cardiologist and former director of the Samueli Center, in a news release. "By using Western scientific rigor to validate an ancient Eastern therapy, we feel we have integrated Chinese and Western medicine and provided a beneficial guideline for treating a disease that affects millions in the U.S." 

In this most recent study, researchers analyzed data from 65 hypertensive patients who were not receiving any hypertension medication. The participants were randomly separated into two groups and were treated with electroacupuncture--otherwise known as a form of the practice that employs low-intensity electrical stimulation at different acupoints on the body.

While the group consisting of 33 patients received electroacupuncture on both sides of the inner wrists and slightly below the knee, the other group of 32 received electroacupunture at other acupoints along the forearm and lower leg.

Findings revealed that the first group had a noticeable drop in blood pressure rates in about 70 percent of patients, with improvements that persisted for close to a month and a half. On the other hand, the second group showed no consequential blood pressure changes.

Although the blood pressure reductions in the first cohort were relatively small, the researchers noted that they were clinically meaningful and that the technique could be especially useful in treating systolic hypertension in patients over 60.

"Because electroacupuncture decreases both peak and average systolic blood pressure over 24 hours, this therapy may decrease the risk for stroke, peripheral artery disease, heart failure and myocardial infarction in hypertensive patients," Longhurst concluded.

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