Hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke (both ischaemic and haemorrhagic), myocardial infarction, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease, cognitive decline and premature death worldwide.(Kearney 2005) If the condition is untreated, there is a progressive rise in blood pressure, which often results in a treatment resistant state due to vascular and renal damage (itself caused by the untreated hypertension).(NICE 2011)
At least 25% of the adult population in the UK have hypertension (i.e. a blood pressure of 140/90mmHg or more), and over half of those over the age of 60 years are affected.(NICE 2011) The prevalence is strongly influenced by age and lifestyle factors. Raised systolic pressure is the more dominant feature of hypertension in older patients, while raised diastolic pressure is more common in younger patients (i.e. those under 50 years of age).(NICE 2011) Because routine periodic screening for high blood pressure is commonplace in the UK, the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of patients with hypertension is one of the most common interventions in primary care; it actually accounts for around 12% of consultations in general practice.(NICE 2011)
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically help to lower blood pressure by:
Regulating endothelium-derived vasoconstrictors (endothelin-1) and vasodilators (calcitonin gene-related peptide, nitric oxide and nitric oxide synthase) (Wang 2011a; Wang 2011b; Pan 2010; Hwang 2008; Kim 2006)
Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the analytical brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010; Hui 2009);
Increasing the release of adenosine, which has antinociceptive properties (Goldman 2010);
Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kavoussi 2007).