Review of trials examining the use of acupuncture to treat hypertension

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Abstract

Although hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke in the US, only approximately a quarter of adults receive adequate hypertension treatment and control their blood pressure (BP) effectively. There are disparities in the prevalence of hypertension, its treatment and control with respect to age, sex, racial groups and education. The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of high BP (JNC 7 report) provides lifestyle modification with and without pharmacological intervention recommendations for preventing and treating different stages of hypertension. Recently, nonpharmacological approaches including yoga, meditation, acupressure and acupuncture have been considered as potential therapeutic options. Acupuncture has been used empirically for nearly 3000 years to treat a variety of diseases, including cardiovascular disorders such as hypertension, hypotension, coronary disease and certain arrhythmias. Previous studies suggest that short and chronic elevation in BP can be lowered in animal models and human subjects. However, the mechanisms underlying the antihypertensive effects of acupuncture are not yet fully understood. An increasing interest in acupuncture healthcare has led to a growing number of investigators to pursue research in this field. This article briefly summarizes available studies, including our own reports, that demonstrate evidence for acupuncture modulation of cardiovascular function, particularly BP reduction, and concludes that future treatment of hypertension can potentially include acupuncture as a nonpharmacological intervention.

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