The heart. We all have one. Whether it’s functioning properly, is a completely different story though. About 695,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – that’s 1 in every 5 deaths. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing approximately 375,476 people annually. And every year, about 805,000 Americans have a heart attack. But despite all the advances in modern allopathic medicine, heart disease is not decreasing and it is, in fact, worsening.
In the realm of a heart disease diagnosis or a cardiac event, a beacon of hope emerges from an unexpected source, East Asian Medicine (EAM). EAM offers a complementary approach rooted in centuries-old wisdom. This holistic system focuses not only on treating the symptoms, but also on restoring the body’s natural balance.
At the heart of EAM lies the concept of qi, the vital life force that flows through our bodies. After any cardiovascular event (heart attack, stroke, etc.), the qi becomes disrupted and the homeostasis of the body can go haywire. EAM seeks to restore equilibrium by harmonizing the opposing forces of yin and yang. Through acupuncture, herbal remedies, dietary modifications and mindfulness practices, EAM gently guides the body back to a state of vitality.
Acupuncture, in particular, can be an amazing tool to utilize should you find out that you have a heart condition or even after having a heart attack or stroke. Here’s a sampling of the ways that acupuncture can help:
1. Reduce Stress – Stress is a normal part of life. But if left unmanaged, stress can lead to emotional, psychological and even physical problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pains or irregular heart beats. Stress itself might be a risk factor, or it could be that high levels of stress make other risk factors worse. For example, if you are under stress, your blood pressure goes up, you may overeat, you may exercise less and you may be more likely to smoke.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the substantial benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of stress, anxiety and mental health. In addition to acupuncture, EAM offers a whole gamut of tools and techniques that can be integrated into your life to keep stress in check. These tools include qigong exercises, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, meditations and acupressure that you can administer at home.
2. Improve Sleep – Poor sleep has been linked with high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and obesity. Researchers have shown that getting at least eight hours of sleep is needed for good heart health and getting less than eight hours of sleep can put you at a greater risk for developing heart disease.
Acupuncture has shown great success treating a wide array of sleep problems without any of the side effects of prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids. The acupuncture treatments for problems sleeping focus on the root disharmony within the body that is causing the insomnia. Therefore, those who use acupuncture for insomnia, achieve not only better sleep, but also an overall improvement of physical and mental health.
3. Manage Blood Pressure – High blood pressure makes the heart work harder, increasing its oxygen demands and contributing to angina. This excessive pressure can lead to an enlarged heart (cardiomegaly), as well as damage to blood vessels in the kidneys and brain. It increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and kidney disease.
Acupuncture has been found to be particularly helpful in lowering blood pressure. By applying acupuncture needles at specific sites along the wrist, inside the forearm or on the leg, researchers were able to stimulate the release of opioids, which decreases the heart’s activity and thus its need for oxygen. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure.
4. Quit Smoking – Most people associate cigarette smoking with breathing problems and lung cancer. But did you know that smoking is also a major cause of coronary artery disease? In fact, about twenty percent of all deaths from heart disease are directly related to cigarette smoking.
Acupuncture has shown to be an effective treatment for smoking. Acupuncture treatments for smoking cessation focus on jitters, cravings, irritability and restlessness; symptoms that people commonly complain about when they quit. It also aids in relaxation and detoxification.
5. Weight Management – Obesity is associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, all of which increase the risk of developing heart disease. But studies have shown that excess body weight itself can also lead to heart failure. Even if you are entirely healthy otherwise, being overweight still places you at a greater risk of developing heart failure.
Acupuncture and EAM are excellent adjunctive tools when it comes to losing weight. They can help to energize the body, maximize the absorption of nutrients, regulate elimination, control overeating, suppress the appetite and reduce anxiety.
If you are seeking help to improve your heart health or recover after a cardiovascular event, consider East Asian Medicine and specifically acupuncture. There is so much that this medicine can provide and it works very cohesively with Western medicine.