What causes high blood pressure? There are a lot of potential factors like diet, genetics and other body system issues. But for now, let’s focus on stress and the production of hormones that result.
Many of us have what can be considered stressful lives. We are working, caring for family members and running a household or business. We encounter multiple stressors in our everyday activities like professional deadlines, interpersonal relationships and even summer traffic.
Our body has a calculated response to any type of perceived threat like these stressors through feedback to our brain from our senses (eyes and nose). Hormones like adrenalin are released quickly and position us to respond to the perceived threat before we even know it. So, seeing a traffic jam can trigger a chemical release as we are thinking about being late to an appointment or having to drive with screaming kids in the car. As a result, our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate can increase. While this would be a good thing to get us to run away from a tiger let’s say, it is not necessary in our routine daily events.
Researchers have found this chronic low-level stress in our lives makes our bodies idle like a motor and causes other chemical changes in the body which contribute to chronic illness like high blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to damage in other organs like your kidneys, your blood vessels and even your brain.
So how can acupuncture help?
It is hypothesized that the act of needling stimulates the relaxation response and therefore the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) which is considered the “rest and digest” stage. Through stimulation of the PNS, heart rate and breathing rate is reduced. Many patients report they feel relaxed and many practitioners can see changes in heart rate and breathing by the end of an acupuncture session.
It is important to note that one acupuncture treatment does not “fix” this issue. You as the patient and owner of your health must commit to learning ways to decrease stress in ways that will remind your body that a summer traffic jam is not a life or death situation. Your acupuncturist can help support you in finding ways to decrease stress.