Most people are unaware of options for treating high blood pressure, choosing to go with the advise of their GP’s. Yet many GP’s expect sufferers to stay on meds for prolonged periods or sometimes permanently, offering very little life style advise or even dietary pointers. Did you know acupuncture can normalise blood pressure? If you have HBP but don’t like taking medications, acupuncture could be for you. In this blog I explore a little of the causes of HBP from a Chinese medical perspective, in terms of the ‘Qi’ involved
Systolic high blood pressure
Systolic is the higher measurement, it refers to the pressure in the arterial system when the heart is pumping. This type of high blood pressure is influenced by the amount of fluid present. The fluid balance of the body is maintained by the kidneys, in Chinese medicine this type of HBP is caused by a weakness in the system of the kidneys, they are deficient in Qi and do not have the power to expel the excess fluid.
Diastolic high blood pressure
Diastolic is the lower measurement, it refers to the pressure when the heart is at rest ie between beats, this type is more resultant from the tonicity of the arterial system itself. The blood vessel walls have smooth muscles inside them, these muscles are controlled by the autonomic nervous system and they are either in vasodilation or vasoconstriction (or somewhere in between), depending on a number of factors. In Classical chinese medicine all muscles in the body are maintained and supported by the Qi of the liver, in HBP the flow of the liver Qi has stagnated due to weakness, the stagnation of Qi equates to a loss of function of the arterial muscular wall.
In both these types of HBP the aim is to nourish the weakened organ system. In systolic-kidney type this is done by needling point/s on acupuncture channels that feed into the system of the kidneys, what is called tonifying the mother, creating abundance here naturally ensures the kidneys strengthen. In diastolic-liver type its is similar but because there is stagnation in the Qi, we choose points that have a harmonising effect on the liver, only 2 or 3 points each session are punctured, as the liver Qi harmonises so its ability to control blood pressure is returned.
High blood pressure and medication
High blood pressure medication causes high blood pressure. A staggering 50% of people on HBP drugs do not have stable blood pressure. Why is this? Its because the drugs are forcing more activity out of that which is already weak, over time this makes them (the organs) weaker, a typical presentation goes like this:
- age 55 diagnosed HBP, put on cardesartin low dose, say 4mg, BP normalises
- age 57 BP is high again, dosage upped to 8mg, maybe even 16mg, BP normalises
- age 59, blood pressure is peaking up once more, it is the middle of summer and there is some swelling in his ankles, doctor decides the kidneys are under performing and prescribes a diuretic, say chlorothiazide , 25mg starter dosage.
chlorothiazide dosen’t perform as well as expected so upped to 50mg, blood pressure once again normal, swelling better.
- age 62 gradually start to suffer from chest pain, ECG stows some signs of mild heart disease, also cholesterol reading is high, prescribes sinvastatin and a low dose beta blocker to ‘relax the system’, say atenolol at 50mg starter dosage. chest pain disappears.
At this point it is easy to see how much pressure the liver and kidneys are under.
- age 64 our patient still has normal BP but is not feeling well and generally lacks energy.
- age 66 due to a considerable family crisis BP rises again, doctor increases atenolol to 100mg, blood pressure returns to normal.
At this point our patient is on 3 types of BP medication and a statin, the World health organisation states that if someone is on 6 types of medicine it will effect life expectancy. What does 4 types do to the body?
I could go on but you get the picture, this persons health is in decline (at least in part) because of the drugs he is taking. Understand there is nothing wrong with HBP medicine, it saves lives, but it should be used short term in lieu of finding the cause, unless circumstances are such that a solution can not be found, such as the very aged. Expecting patients to permanently take HBP without helping them find answers though diet and life style advise is just not good enough and lines the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry. I would like to put acupuncture forward as a viable alternative to drugs. Curative acupuncture is administered once a month, and later, preventative acupuncture is administered once every 3 months.
Effects of HBP medication on the Qi
Beta blockers will stagnate the Qi of the liver (liver Qi stagnation is the cause of HBP)
Diuretics will weaken the kidney Qi (and the organ) (weak kidney is the cause of HBP)
Calcium channel blockers will stagnate the Qi of the liver
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are known to weaken kidney function, in fact they are totally contraindicated in kidney disease.
Angiotensin II receptor blockers, The action on the Qi is unknown, they are likely to effect the liver, these medicines have been linked to an increased cancer risk.
Acupuncture treatment if you already take HBP medication
Typically medication is only reduced as and when BP reduces, this is best done in conjunction with your GP, occasionally blood pressure can lower quickly, a patient can suffer symptoms of low blood pressure, if this happens the patient is required to visit the GP ASAP. NB I have never had a patient faint!