Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of the main arteries, as it flows from the heart to the organs of the body. Blood pressure is measured in the arteries of the arm in units of milimeter mercury as two values:
Diastolic blood pressure – refers to the lowest pressure of blood circulation, when the heart muscle is relaxed
Systolic blood pressure - the higher of the two values, which indicates the pressure that is applied when the heart chambers contract
Normal blood pressure values in a healthy adult at rest are 120/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure (=hypertension) is defined as values above 140/90 mm. It is estimated that over 50% of those aged 65 and over suffer from high blood pressure values. The main problem is that most people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition as they usually have no unique symptoms other than severe headache, dizziness, vision problems and fatigue. However, a study published in 2016 that included data from 188 countries showed that high blood pressure is the most contributing factor in the development of stroke (1) and is therefore referred to as the "silent killer".
What causes high blood pressure?
Blood pressure varies throughout a person's life. In most cases (95%), the cause of the condition is unknown but typically results from poor diet, being overweight, stagnant lifestyle, poor sleep, certain emotions, family history and background illnesses such as diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides etc. In 5% of cases, high blood pressure is due to certain drug treatments (e.g., painkillers), smoking and more.
How is hypertension treated?
The most effective way to treat blood pressure is prevention, by maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes:
• A balanced diet to lower the level of cholesterol and lipids in the blood, reduce the amount of sodium (salt), increase the amount of potassium and calcium, and reduce the consumption of alcohol and caffeine
• Weight loss (for those that are overweight)
• Aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, running, swimming, and cycling), at least 30 minutes a day, 4-5 times/week
• Relaxation movement and breathing exercises such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga and Meditation
• Avoid smoking
The higher the blood pressure is above normal, the more likely medication will be required in combination with the other methods mentioned above. There are several drugs prescribed to lower blood pressure that differ in their mechanism of action - some diuretics, some interfere in the process of vasoconstriction, some relax and dilate large blood vessels and some calm the sympathetic nervous system (which responds to stress).
The effect of these drugs is not immediate and may also diminish over time, which may necessitate dosage increase, change of medication or add-on of additional drugs. Furthermore, these drugs have side effects, especially when combined with other drugs that require, in some cases, monitoring of kidney and liver function, and are not suitable for pregnant or lactating women.
How can Chinese medicine help manage hypertension or prevent its development?
Chinese medicine has existed for thousands of years, and ancient writings describe the disease as vertigo and headaches. High blood pressure is due to an imbalance in the liver, kidney, spleen and heart systems which cause a deficiency in Yin and hyperactivity of Yang that are manifested in symptoms in the head. The main cause of hypertension is an emotional imbalance resulting from stress, fear, or anger, which are accompanied by an unhealthy diet that causes the formation of phlegm, narrowing of the blood vessels and/or slowing blood flow.
Chinese medicine treatment is comprehensive and includes acupuncture, Chinese herbs (some of which lower blood pressure directly), personalized dietary recommendations and lifestyle changes.
Studies have demonstrated that acupuncture combined with drug therapy lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure significantly more than drug therapy alone and that this effect is maintained even one month after treatment has ended (2). The mechanism of action of acupuncture in lowering blood pressure is similar to that of drugs and works on the renin-angiotensin axis (3).
Furthermore, herbs such as ginseng have also been clinically proven to lower blood pressure (4). Finally, active lifestyle, with the help of methods like Qi Gong and Tai Chi (and in combination with medication), has also been proven to be effective in over 2300 patients (5).
Our program, "Beat high cholesterol, sugar and blood pressure in just 6 weeks" consists of 4 tailor-made steps accompanied by personal guidance that will ensure success for the long term:
Personal diagnosis according to Chinese medicine, which complements the treatment the patient receives from their health insurance organization (Kupat Holim)
Acupuncture treatments, herbal formula and tea infusions that have been scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure
Personalized nutritional guidelines, according to the patient's lifestyle
A gift starter infusion pack, a monthly group meeting, a recipe booklet and additional video clips, tips and research
The program places special emphasis on maintaining low sugar levels, losing weight, and ensuring healthy cholesterol and triglycerides blood lever (all part of the metabolic syndrome) as a meta-analysis study that included over 4 million adults concluded that people with high blood pressure have a 60% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even if they have taken blood pressure or cholesterol lowering drugs (6).
The program is intended both for those who are already taking medication and for those who are looking for a combined treatment option to balance their blood pressure for the long term.
Feigin VL et al Lancet Neurol (2016) 15:913–24 doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(16)30073-4
Chen H et al. Sci Monit (2018) 24: 2946-2969 doi: 10.12659/MSM.909995
Lee J et al. Int J Hypertension (2019) doi: 10.1155/2019/8676490
Lee HW et al. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. (2017)15(6):549-56 doi:10.2174/1570161115666170713092701
Xiong X. et al. Medicine (2015) 94 (1). doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000000352
Emdin CA et al. J American College Caridiology (2015) doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2015.07.059