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Heart problems are the number one cause of deaths in the United States of America. Every year, heart-related complications claim approximately a million lives in the U.S. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization, heart disease is the number one cause of Death in Australia, Canada and the UK as well. In the U.S. alone, 26.6 million adults (31% of the adult population) have been diagnosed and live with heart disease.

Elsewhere around the world, the statistics show grim figures. In 2015, 17.7 million people died from cardiac diseases; translating to 31% of global deaths in that year (Myers, 2004). What these statistics point to is the fact that despite the advanced medical technology of today, the war against heart diseases is far from being won. However, the good news is that heart complications are among the most preventable diseases especially if you are incorporating an holistic approach to your treatment with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Let’s take a look at some of the definitions, causes, symptoms and treatments for heart problems before we show you how acupuncture can help.

Definitions
The term heart diseases, also referred to as cardiac diseases, is an umbrella cover for different types of heart problems. However, heart disease is not the same thing cardiovascular disease. While the latter refers to disorders of blood vessels and the heart, heart diseases only cover the heart. Here, we look at some of the common terms used in heart disease and disorder lingo:

Pulmonary stenosis – The American Heart Health Journal defines this heart problem as the inability of the heart to pump blood from the right ventricle into the pulmonary artery. A very tight pulmonary valve causes it. In young babies, it leads to cyanotic (where the tot turns blue).

Angina Pectoris – It occurs when part of heart muscle does not get adequate oxygen. Its symptoms include chest pain and tightness.

Myocardial infarction – Also referred as heart attack, this happens when lack of oxygen destroys a part of heart muscle. It usually results from a blood clot in the coronary arteries.

Congenital heart disease – These birth defects adversely affects how the heart works. It is estimated that in every 1000 babies born in the US, 1 one has a congenital disease.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – This is a genetic complication leading to thickening of the left ventricle, making it hard to pump blood out of the heart. If both parents have this disorder, they have 50% probability of passing it down to their children.

Congestive heart failure – This occurs when the heart does not pump adequate blood around the body. The left side of the body is more likely to be affected.

Arrhythmia – This is an anomaly with the heartbeat rhythm. The heart may race faster (Tachycardia) or at times beat at a very slow rate (Bradycardia).

Coronary artery disease – When cholesterol deposits are left in coronary artery, they reduce the supply of oxygen to the heart. This results in coronary artery disease.

Causes of heart problems

According to Verheugt and Tonkin (2003), the causes of heart problems vary according to the type of heart disease and disorder. Collectively, these are the main causes of the various types of heart complications:

  • Heart infections such as myocarditis, pericarditis and endorcarditis. Virus, bacteria and parasites cause these infections.
  • Connective tissue complications and rheumatic fever. These are more likely to cause valvular heart diseases.
  • Heart defects are the causes of congenital heart diseases. They develop a month after conception thus affecting the development and function of a baby’s heart.
  • High blood pressure has been identified among the major causes of relentless heart problems.
  • Build up of fatty deposits around the walls of artery. This is the major cause of coronary artery disease.
  • Unhealthy lifestyles- according to the WHO Heart Health Report of 2016, poor lifestyles increase the heart risk factor by 30% compared to a decade ago. Excessive consumption of alcohol, lack of exercise and drug abuse have contributed by a large margin to the increased prevalence of heart problems in adults aged between 45 to 60 years.

Symptoms of heart problems

Just like the causes, symptoms of heart problems depend on the type of disorder. Here are some of the early indicators of heart health problems as highlighted by Myers in Everything You Need To Know About Heart Health (2004):

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat rhythm
  • Swollen ankles and feet
  • Unusual spots and skin rashes
  • Fatigue and general body weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting and lightheadedness

Western medical treatment for heart treatments

Western medicine has in the past and present presented medical remedies to heart problems. While there is no 100% cure to chronic heart problems, these medications have been known to relieve and manage symptoms, as well as reduce risk factors.

Medicines – There is a wide range of medicines used to counter heart problems such as high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Some of these medicines include:

  1. Warfarin and clopidogrel- both are blood-thinning agents and prevent clotting.
  2. ACE inhibitors- they are best used against high blood pressure.
  3. Anti-anginal nitrates- they are commonly used as vasodilators.
  4. Statins- it is prescribed as a cholesterol reducing medication.
  5. Beta-blockers- they treat high blood pressure as well prevent angina.

Bypass surgery – This is a coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG), which involves taking a blood vessel in your arm, chest or leg and grafting its coronary pathways to serve as blood “detour” in the event of a thickening artery wall.

Stent and Angioplasty implantation – This operation involves the insertion of an expandable metal tube in your artery to keep it open.

Implantable cardiac defibrillators – With ICD, a small device is implanted in the patient’s chest to monitor and correct heartbeat.

Acupuncture and heart health: Studies that show the effectiveness of TCM and acupuncture in treating heart health

In 2012, a systematic analysis involving 16 Randomized and Controlled Trials (RCTs) found out that conventional drugs coupled up with acupuncture greatly reduced chances of heart problems (Chen, 2012). The trials involved drugs alone, acupuncture alone and the two combined.

One of the RCTs established that the use of acupuncture greatly provide a fast relief for angina pectoris without any adverse side effects (Wang, 2011). In another RCT, Xu (2005) found out that when conventional medication is combined with acupoint pressing, they greatly improve safety and efficacy against intractable angina.

According to Meng (2004), a Chinese clinical study discovered that the use of acupoint pressing at Neiguan point (PC6) effectively reduced and managed the symptoms of both acute myocardial infarction and angina pectoris. Another Danish study reinforced the same findings as highlighted in reviews by Ballegaard (1999, 2004).

In dealing with myocardial ischaemia, acupuncture was noted to be a good therapeutic alternative for ST segment depression, heart rate and blood pressure (Diao, 2011). Generally, there is piling evidence on the effectiveness and accuracy of acupuncture as a solution to a wide array of heart problems. This can be explained by the biochemical changes occasioned by acupuncture resulting into stimulation of the nervous system thus promoting emotional well-being and improving the body’s homeostatic mechanisms.

Chinese herbs, along with acupuncture, have also been proven effective to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, while improving overall heart function. Learn more on how acupuncture works or call to schedule a free consultation today.

 

Sources

http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
http://www.cdc.gov/HeartDisease/heredity.htm
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/clinical_services/centers_excellence/womens_cardiovascular_health_center/patient_information/health_topics/depression_heart_disease.html