Hypertension is a serious world-wide health problem as it increases cardiovascular atherosclerotic risk, stroke and attending morbidity and mortality. Both systolic and diastolic blood pressures and particularly systolic pressure increase with aging. The downsides from pharmacological therapy have led to consideration of additional treatments, including acupuncture, which evokes endogenous neural-hormonal systems to lower blood pressure. Using basic science studies to guide clinical approaches to research, it is apparent that low frequency, low intensity electroacupuncture reduces sympathetic outflow in approximately 70% of patients with mild to moderate hypertension who are off antihypertensive drugs. Systolic and, to a lesser extent, diastolic arterial blood pressures can be lowered over two to four weeks for prolonged periods, lasting as long as one month, after cessation of an eight weeks of once weekly stimulation. Many questions about long-term therapy, treatment of resistant patients and efficacy in patients on medication remain to be studied. Current data, however, suggest that there may be a role of acupuncture in treatment of hypertension.
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