Acupuncture shows promise for treating hypertension

by Bruce Sylvester: Hypertensive patients have achieved a modest but therapeutic and durable response to acupuncture treatment, researchers from the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California in Irvine reported on August 19, 2015 in Medical Acupuncture.

“This clinical study is the culmination of more than a decade of bench research in this area,” said ¬†John Longhurst, MD, PH.D, a University of California in Irvine Medical Center cardiologist and former director of the Samueli Center. “By using Western scientific rigor to validate an ancient Eastern therapy, we feel we have integrated Chinese and Western medicine and provided a beneficial guideline for treating a disease that affects millions in the U.S.”

Longhurst and colleagues enrolled 65 hypertensive patients who were not being treated for hypertension with drugs. They randomized the subjects into two groups, to receive electroacupuncture at different acupoints on the body.

In the cohort (n=33) receiving electroacupuncture on both sides of the inner wrists and slightly below each knee, the investigators found a noticeable drop in blood pressure rates in 70 percent of subjects, with an average drop of 6 to 8 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and 4 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure. The changes lasted for an average of one month and a half.

The investigators also noted in these subjects significant declines in blood concentration levels of norepinephrine (41 percent), which tightens blood vessels and increases blood pressure and glucose levels, and increases in renin (67 percent), an enzyme that helps control blood pressure.

Notably, the researchers found no significant blood pressure changes among the subjects who received electroacupuncture at other acupoints along the forearm and lower leg.

The investigators noted that the blood pressure reductions in the responsive cohort were relatively small, in the 4-to-13-mmHg range, but that they were clinically meaningful. They said that the technique might be especially useful in treating systolic hypertension in patients over 60.

“Because electroacupuncture decreases both peak and average systolic blood pressure over 24 hours, this therapy may decrease the risk for stroke, peripheral artery disease, heart failure and myocardial infarction in hypertensive patients,” Longhurst said.