How might Chinese medicine explain high blood pressure – hypertension?
You have to remember that acupuncture is part of a cultural and health way of life, developed over probably 3000 years.
It’s not just a few pins stuck in you! We ignore all that accumulated know-how at our peril.
For instance, if Chinese medicine has found certain foods make things worse but we continue to eat them while getting the best treatment for our problem, who are we fooling?
Aren’t we throwing away our money and time? Acupuncture therefore comes with advice about how to improve oneself! Ignoring this means treatment will, at best, be less effective.
Just as in Western medicine, your doctor gives you advice on how to change your habits for better help, so does Chinese medicine: it’s just had probably an extra 2800 years to consider things.
Yin and Yang and Hypertension
Signs of High Blood Pressure
Signs that might suggest to your doctor that you have hypertension include:
shortness of breath
But many people with hypertension have no symptoms. Until someone takes your blood pressure you don’t know you have it!
What worries doctors is that high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems. Over time HBP puts a strain on your heart and blood vessels, potentially damaging delicate tissues such as your kidneys and eyes. Eventually this may lead to coronary artery disease including stroke and heart attack.
You take your blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer. It gives you two readings, a higher (the ‘systolic’) and a lower (the ‘diastolic’). It may also give you your pulse rate.
Normal BP readings
Supposedly, in young healthy people the figures are 120/80.
Those are average, which means a lot of healthy people have higher figures and a lot of healthy people have lower figures.
Vigorous exercise requires faster blood circulation to feed oxygen to the tissues so your heart beats faster and harder, raising the blood pressure. Take your reading well after taking exercise, by when your body and its blood pressure have reverted to ‘normal’.
What is considered High Blood Pressure?
Various factors affect the reading, including:
As you age, your circulation tends to stiffen up, so the heart must push harder to get the blood round. To do this, it exerts more pressure so the figures increase, for example to 130/85 or 135/90, or more. In general, the higher the readings the greater the risk.
The ambient temperature and how warm you are
Digesting a large meal
Medications you are taking
How stressed your body is by physical or mental factors
Doctors in different countries rate danger from high blood pressure differently.
In some countries they start prescribing medication when your reading exceeds 125/85.
In other countries they start to worry only if it exceeds 130/90 – or more.
To avoid the ‘white coat’ syndrome, when your BP increases at the sight of a white coat or doctor, you can wear a continuous monitor for 24 hours during which it periodically tightens a cuff on your arm and takes a reading, even during sleep.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
Western medicine often diagnoses these causes:
Adrenal gland problems
Drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines that have a highly stimulating effect
Various prescribed medications
Some OTC medications such as for colds, nasal congested and pain
The above cause ‘Secondary‘ hypertension.
‘Primary’ hypertension is when doctors cannot account for it.
Apparently in some 90% of people there are no obvious medical causes but Western medicine does recognise that blood pressure often increases as you age. (Which makes rather a nonsense of using the average ‘healthy’ readings of 120/80 for older people!)
How Chinese Medicine Explains It
As this site aims to explain Chinese medicine in English, let’s get down to basics!
Yin is consolidating, nourishing, cooling and resting, as compared with yang which is exploring, warming, inspiring and moving.
If your BP is high, for some reason
either your yang is too high, predominant;
or your yin is to low, deficient. (For example, your Blood could be deficient, as found in some women with amennorhoea or anaemia)
Plus, for example, your yin is too thick, which translates as your Blood is stagnant, not moving properly, harder to push, requiring more pressure
Yin being too thick could also come from what are called Damp and/or Phlegm, which obstruct the free movement of Qi
The structure of your body (another example of your yin reserves) is out of balance, causing blockages impeding the flow of Qi and Blood. This imbalance might have come from bad posture, accidents, surgery, prolonged stress or congenital problems
Too much yang and/or not enough yin could happen for many reasons, but two obvious examples are lifestyle and stress – either currently or in the past.
Other important factors are what we eat and how we eat it, and the effect of ageing, which affects our circulatory system and Blood. For more on these, see below.
One way of looking at stressis through the Chinese concept of Qi.
This blocks the easy flow and interaction between yin and yang, leading to a kind of pressure or heat. That increases yang and over time may decrease yin as we use up our yin resources to balance and contain our ‘excess’ yang.
Acupuncture is based on qi flowing along acupuncture channels or meridians. Acupuncture points on the channels affect how qi flows along them. When qi runs smoothly, life flows easily between yin and yang.
There are many ways of treating excess yang or deficient yin.
(By the way, is all this yin-yangery turning your brain to mush? Hold on! In a few seconds you’ll see how it applies to Western medicine!)
As yin and yang return to balance, so does your problem – in this case – hypertension.
Western Medicine, HBP, Yin and Yang
Without knowing it, Western medicine uses exactly the same protocol as Chinese medicine!
you are taught ways to control your mind – to ‘stress’ less (eg meditation, which helps you mind balance its yin and yang forces)
and you are told to take more exercise (exercise is one of the best ways to move qi, reducing qi stagnation thereby reducing stress and yin/yang imbalance)
I hope this makes sense!
The yin-yang theory applies whatever one’s circumstances or health problem, not just HBP, but of course how acupuncture and Chinese thinking might apply to you and your health problem would be much more detailed and would depend on your situation and health.
How to Lower Blood Pressure
Using acupuncture, there are techniques and points
at the top of your body and head – that send yang down
further down your body – that strengthen yin
to move or release blood stagnation
to clear blockages
that calm your mind and help you relax
to help your body regain a healthy structural shape so qi and blood can flow smoothly
Lifestyle to lower Hypertension
Stress is part of life, often demanding and challenging. It excites us if we enjoy rising to the challenge.
Too much wears us down, exhausting us (yin becomes deficient) and we get stuck into a yang excess-over-yin condition.
Too little and we get bored, slow down, do nothing, get unfit, develop Blood stasis and argue with one another.
What to do? Here are just a few ideas, using yin and yang – but you’ll soon see that they mirror ideas from Western medicine!