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Acupuncture shows success against hypertension

Hypertension is a long term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated (hence it is commonly referred to as ‘high blood pressure’ as the blood flows through arteries at a faster rate than normal). The condition presents a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure and other ill-health conditions.

Although anti-hypersensitive drugs can be given, the condition can also be controlled through lifestyle changes, such as maintaining normal body weight; reducing dietary sodium intake; engaging in regular aerobic exercise; lowering alcohol consumption; and eating more fruit and vegetables.

In addition to these measures there also appears a role for ‘alternative’ therapies like acupuncture. This is a specific form of acupuncture called electroacupuncture. Electroacupuncture is a form of acupuncture where a small electric current is passed between pairs of acupuncture needles. One success with the treatment is with reducing the effects of moderate post-chemotherapy vomiting.

In a new study, when rats were treated with electroacupuncture for 30 minutes twice a week for five weeks, this resulted in their blood pressure falling and remaining at a lower for around three days. The study was conducted by Zhi-Ling Guo, who is based at UC Irvine Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine.

It is thought the electroacupuncture works on increasing the gene expression of enkephalins (an opioid peptide). The release of the peptides occurs in the brainstem area that affects blood pressure.

Further study will be required to see if the same effects occur with people. The research has been published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. The paper is titled “Repetitive Electroacupuncture Attenuates Cold-Induced Hypertension through Enkephalin in the Rostral Ventral Lateral Medulla.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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