February is American Hearth Month. The celebration was created in 1963 to bring more awareness to the prevalence of heart disease. It is also a tribute to researchers, physicians and public health professionals who work to research, prevent and treat heart disease. And for good reason. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in this country, with more than 800,000 heart attacks occurring each year in the U.S. alone.
What is heart disease
Heart disease occurs when there is an impediment in the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the heart. This is often 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 culprits that cause this damage are high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and smoking.
Why is heart disease so prevalent?
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 also contributes to diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol that are 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 an excellent 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.
How does acupuncture treat heart disease?
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. This response triggers functions that allow a person to escape life threatening situations. It increases heart rate and blood pressure and releases more glucose into the bloodstream for immediate use. While 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 antidote 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 is what helps bring our heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels back to normal. Acupuncture is extremely effective at activating this response. Consistent treatment can bring your system back into balance and potentially 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.
How to get started
Start by finding a Modern Acupuncture clinic near you by visiting our website. We have clinics all across the country and more opening every month. Book your appointment online or call your local clinic and speak to one of our friendly Zen Advisors. We can’t wait to meet you and help you live your happiest and healthiest life.