What is Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Hypertension (aka High Blood Pressure) is described as an increased force of blood against the blood vessel walls. The harder the force, the harder the heart has to work to push the blood through the vessels, the higher the blood pressure.
As many as 70% of adults and over 2 millions teens have hypertension. According to the CDC 50% of those with hypertension do not have it controlled.
Normal Blood Pressure is under 120/80
Prehypertension is between 120/80 and 139/89
Hypertension is above 140/90
The top number is called the systolic measurement, and the bottom number is called the diastolic measurement. The systolic number represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The diastolic number represents the pressure in the arteries between heart beats. Blood pressure can be effected by stress and activity, so one high reading is not a diagnosis of hypertension. If you have consistently high readings of above 140/90 then hypertension is diagnosed and treatment regimes are prescribed.
What Causes Hypertension
There are two diagnostic forms of hypertension; Essential and Secondary. Essential hypertension is hypertension with an unknown cause, 95% of all cases. Secondary hypertension is hypertension that has an underlying cause.
Though most causes of hypertension are unknown, there are several factors that increase the risk of developing hypertension.
There are also some genetic factors that predispose certain people to developing hypertension. Men age 45 or women age 65, African American heritage, and or having a family member with hypertension can increase your risk of developing hypertension.
Diagnosis Hypertension in TCM
Hypertension is not a Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis, nor was the condition mentioned as such in the classical texts. The symptoms of Hypertension, though usually silent; severe headache, fatigue, confusion, vision changes, palpitations, chest pain; all point to several different diagnosis in TCM theory.
To create a treatment plan with TCM, we must first differential the pattern. This pattern is different for different people. The symptoms experienced by an individual varies, and may change based on other imbalances present within the body. By taking the individual and differentiating their unique pattern, we have the best chance of treating, reversing, and managing their presentation.
In TCM we describe hypertension as "Dizziness and Headache, due to Internal Injury." From here, we further differential the symptoms. You may hear your acupuncturist mention terms like;
To aid in diagnosis, the acupuncturist will consult tongue and pulse readings. The condition of the tongue and pulse can give us a glimpse of internal imbalances, as well as the severity of the condition.
Treating Hypertension with TCM
Acupuncture Treatment for Lowering Blood Pressure
Using Exercise to Manage High Blood Pressure
Each of these patterns listed above, constitutes a different treatment protocol, a different combination of acupuncture points. During treatments, blood pressure readings will be taken before and after. Treatments are typically done twice weekly for 4 weeks, once weekly for 4 weeks, and slowly spaced out to twice monthly, once monthly and so on, until we can set up the optimal period between treatments for management.
Many of the points needles will be located on the hands, feet and ears. Often we will send a patient home with ear seeds or tacks taped to the ears. These auricular acupuncture points help to extend the treatment once the patient has left the office.
We almost always see an immediate drop in blood pressure after the first treatment. Often by as much as 10 points! Patients will be asked to take daily blood pressure readings outside of the office and to bring those readings with them to their appointments for analysis.
Always check with your doctor and start SLOW! If you push yourself too hard, you may actually increase your blood pressure. By including easy activity into your daily routine, you can strengthen your heart and blood vessel. Your heart is a muscle, just like those in your legs and arms, and just like all other muscles it needs to be exercised to maintain its health. If you have been extra sedentary, set a reasonable goal. Take short walks everyday, take the stairs up to your office, part at the furthest parking spot at the store, start a garden, take yoga or pilates, go swimming, take baby steps and slowly build up what you are able to do.
If you are dealing with stress induced hypertension, these activities will also help to calm your mind, and increase the production of neurotransmitters that can make dealing with stress more manageable.
Using Diet to Manage High Blood Pressure
Considering that most cases of hypertension are directly affected by what a client is or is not consuming in their diet, this is of upmost importance in treatment. We will look very closely at the diet, often asking patients to keep a food journal. As mentioned above, being overweight or obese, struggling with diabetes, and consuming excess sodium and alcohol can contribute to uncontrollable hypertension. By simply working to control diet, we can have a significant effect on hypertension symptoms.
Nutritional Supplements for High Blood Pressure
In our treatments plans, after taking a good hard look at the diet, we may find some nutritional gaps that need to be filled while we make nutritional changes. Often times supplements are added.
Herbal Formulas for High Blood Pressure
Occasionally, but not always, we will add in Chinese Herbal Formulas to help us in treating hypertension. This will vary between individuals, dependent on the underlying diagnosis, current medications, allergies, sensitivities, and progression of treatment. Most of our formulas are made to order specifically for an individual clients needs.
When taking an herbal formula, you should not stop taking your prescription medication to control high blood pressure. Any changes in prescription medication should be done by your primary care provider.
Resources and References