Houston Acupuncture Services for Cardiovascular and Heart Health
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for Americans. In 2021, heart disease was responsible for about 20 percent of all deaths in the U.S., or about 700,000 people. There are plenty of reasons why cardiovascular disease is so prominent in the west, and it’s unlikely that those factors will disappear anytime soon.
In the meantime, medical researchers are hunting for improved treatment methodologies to extend and improve the quality of life for patients. Many researchers, though, are turning to a proven form of Chinese therapy that’s been in use for millennia – acupuncture.
Multiple studies looking into acupuncture and heart health show excellent promise for a number of cardiovascular conditions.
What Types of Cardiovascular Disease Can Acupuncture Therapy Help With?
Acupuncture’s positive effects on the cardiovascular system can help with a variety of conditions. They include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Angina and chest pains
These represent some of the most common, and most severe, cardiovascular problems. However, acupuncture’s whole-body effects mean that it can help with a wide range of heart disease-related symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at those beneficial effects.
Heart advantage 1: Acupuncture can improve heart rate variability (HRV)
Heart rate variability (HRV) describes how the heart’s natural rhythms can be slightly different from beat to beat. This is measured using the time between beats, and in most people, the differences between each beat are subtle enough to be undetectable, unless specialized equipment is used to measure them.
HRV can be a sign of underlying problems, especially if it’s low. It’s normal for the heart to slightly adjust its own rhythms in response to changing conditions in the body. If lower HRV is present, it may mean that the heart can no longer adapt as needed – a sign of cardiac weakness.
Acupuncture is proven to act on the body’s nervous system and modulate electrical signaling between bodily systems.
For example, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine took a team of soccer players and split them into two groups. One group received genuine acupuncture treatments during a four-week high-intensity training regimen. The other group received sham acupuncture by using placebo-like acupuncture points and needles.
Following the four-week training and treatment protocol, the group that received true acupuncture had noticeably higher HRV, suggesting improved cardiac adaptability to strenuous training conditions.
Heart advantage 2: Acupuncture can regulate the autonomic nervous system
This is related to the first point. Acupuncture’s capacity for regulating the nervous system extends to the autonomic nervous system, which itself is comprised of two major parts – the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
These two systems are engaged in a never-ending struggle for balance between the two. That’s because the sympathetic nervous system puts the body in an alert state, while the parasympathetic does the reverse – sending signals that encourage the body to relax.
In people with heart problems, dysregulation between these two systems can make symptoms worse and increase mortality.
A 2013 review published in Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine looked at a variety of previous studies and found that acupuncture activates several areas of the brain associated with autonomic nervous system function. The review found that these brain structures were more likely to appear on neuroimaging in people with autonomic nervous system disorders. In addition, the review also found that acupuncture could regulate neurotransmitter expression in an adaptive fashion, further balancing autonomic nervous system function.
Heart advantage 3: Acupuncture can facilitate a low-stress lifestyle
Given acupuncture’s effect on the autonomic nervous system, it’s not a surprise that treatment is also effective at reducing stress. Specifically, treatment can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system into signaling a stress-reduction response.
Chronic stress is associated with an array of negative cardiovascular indicators. The stress hormone, cortisol, is also associated with elevated levels of triglycerides, blood cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure – all of which can worsen cardiovascular disease.
Acupuncture’s efficacy with anxiety and stress disorders is well-documented. Multiple studies show that treatment can reduce cortisol levels and boost levels of endorphins and other hormones that improve overall well-being. By keeping anxiety and depression in check, acupuncture can support the kind of low-stress lifestyle that patients with heart disease require.
Heart advantage 4: Acupuncture can reduce inflammation and improve immune system function
Acupuncture’s effects go well beyond the nervous system, as treatment may also help the body regulate inflammation, which is associated with increased risk of disease if it’s chronic and severe. Unchecked inflammation results in poorer outcomes for patients with cardiovascular disease and is therefore important to control.
While acupuncture has long been used in inflammatory conditions, only recently have studies honed in on how treatment helps. One 2021 study published in Nature is particularly illuminating in this area.
In this study, which used mice as subjects, researchers identified a neural pathway that, if stimulated, could produce an anti-inflammatory response. The neural pathway in question was only present in the subjects’ hindlimbs, which provides evidence as to why acupuncture only works when it’s applied to the right points, which are region-specific to the body. When researchers bred mice that were missing this neural pathway, the same acupuncture treatments did not have an anti-inflammatory response.
In all, this study provides evidence for what many acupuncturists already know from practicing – that acupuncture can improve inflammation in patients. That has a number of positive cascading effects, including boosting cardiovascular performance.
Alternative Treatment Options like acupuncture services can have major beneficial effects on heart health
Cardiovascular disease is a life-threatening factor in the U.S. and worldwide. Houston Acupuncture can help those with cardiovascular and heart health issues, and the goal is to support cardiovascular function, reduce uncomfortable symptoms like pain, and prolong quality of life. Acupuncture services are effective at offsetting the side effects of heart medication, ensuring patients can remain on their treatment regimen, and get the most out of it.