Lowering The Risk With Chinese Medicine
According to the NHS, Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, yearly claiming more than 73,000 deaths in the UK alone. About 1 in 6 men and 1 in 10 women die from CHD.
Given these figures, it may be worth taking a step back to see if you could lower the risks of CHD. Firstly, it helps to understand the risk factors. Family history and age are the biggest ones, which you have little control over, but lifestyle also plays a huge part. You can help lower your blood pressure and chances of CHD by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake. Lowering stress is a massive factor. The relationship between stress and CHD has been recognised since antiquity. The incidence of heart attacks and sudden death significantly increase following the acute stress of natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes as a consequence of “shock” and the body’s “fight or flight’ responses.
How can Chinese Medicine Help Lower Stress and Blood pressure?
Chinese Medicine has known for centuries that lowering stress and blood pressure are fundamental to preventing heart disease. The western medical profession unanimously agrees because stress raises blood pressure and exposes you to high levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can lead to blood clots and heart attacks.
Chinese Medicine takes a very natural approach to lowering stress. Acupuncture for example can help calm the body when it goes into “fight or flight” by relaxing the response, lowering the heart rate and blood pressure. Studies have shown that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture can activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates relaxation and in turn improves heart function, even in patients with severe heart failure.
An acupuncturist may also recommend meditation or mindfulness exercises to help regulate your emotions. Sometimes we create our own stress because of behaviourial traits like excess anger, hostility, aggressiveness, impatience or inappropriate competitiveness. The appreciation that different emotions can have a powerful influence on the heart-mind connection is ancient. Aristotle and Virgil taught that the heart was the seat of the mind and soul, not the brain. Similar beliefs are in ancient Hindu scriptures and Eastern philosophies. The Roman physician Celsus (2000BC) acknowledged the heart-mind relationship stating that “fear and anger, and any other state of the mind may often be apt to excite the pulse”. Acupuncture can help to balance your emotions and there are specific acupuncture points to strengthen the heart-mind connection.
Both western medicine and Chinese medicine recommend lifestyle changes for the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure. The difference is western medicine treats high blood pressure with medication, often leaving negative side effects. Chinese medicine aims to get to the root of the issue, rather than just treating symptoms. Acupuncture is excellent as it treats the root cause of stress whether that is emotional, physical or both. There are also specific acupuncture points for irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, another common form of heart disease.
Since lifestyle plays a major role in CHD, you are largely in control of your heart health but it is up to you to take the steps to look after it. Listen to your heart, it will guide you on the right path.