February is Heart Health Month. The celebration was created in 1963 to bring more awareness to the prevalence of heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in this country, it causes more than 800,000 heart attacks occurring each year in the U.S. alone. Acupuncture treats heart disease.
Heart disease occurs when there is an breakdown in the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the heart. Often, this is a result of plaque buildup in the arteries or vessels. Plaque accumulates when there is damage to the vessel walls. A few of the common contributors that cause this damage are high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and smoking.
Lifestyle plays a big role in either preventing or producing heart disease. Those who exercise regularly, watch what they eat and manage their stress, are far less likely to experience heart disease in their lifetime. However, most people succumb to the typical modern lifestyle that consists of a lot of sitting, a lot of stress and very little exercise. This lifestyle can also contribute to diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These are also risk factors for heart disease.
The good news is that we can impact our heart health by changing up our daily habits. The bad news is that a total lifestyle overhaul can be very intimidating. Enter, acupuncture. Acupuncture is a great way to both treat and prevent heart disease. It requires minimal effort on your part and doesn’t take up a lot of extra time.
Acupuncture helps decrease stress and regulate the stress response. The body has a natural reaction to perceived stress known as the sympathetic or “fight or flight” response. It increases heart rate and blood pressure and releases glucose into the bloodstream for immediate use. This is good if we are trying to escape a burning building, but this response is also activated when we are pressed by work deadlines, or continually worried about paying our bills. Over time these small stressors have the sympathetic response working overtime and it starts to negatively impact digestion, sleep, mood and of course our heart.
The fix to the “fight or flight” response is an activation of the parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for functions that allow us to rest, digest and heal. This helps bring our heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels back to normal. Acupuncture is very effective at activating this response. Consistent treatment can bring your system back into alignment and possibly reverse the negative impacts of chronic stress, helping to prevent further damage such as heart disease.
Acupuncture mitigates other risk factors. Studies have shown that acupuncture successfully treats conditions such as diabetes. It can help lower blood glucose levels and positively impact insulin sensitivity in individuals with the disease. Managing the symptoms of diabetes can lower the risk of developing heart disease.
If smoking is putting you at higher risk, then acupuncture may help you quit. Although more research is needed, current studies show promise that acupuncture is a useful tool for smoking cessation by decreasing cravings and reducing symptoms of withdrawal.
Heart disease doesn’t have to be your fate. Acupuncture is a practice you can implement right away as a preventative measure. Not only will you be helping your future-self, but your present-self will reap the benefits as well. You will notice that you sleep better, have more energy, less stiffness and less stress with only a few treatments. Ongoing care will help you feel your best and keep you healthy as you age.