Hypertension and Chinese Medicine

I learned how to treat high blood pressure (BP) when I was in medical school.  It was fascinating how those medications worked and the wisdom behind them.  Thirty years later, there are a lot more anti-hypertensive drugs on the market, and the practice guidelines call for more strict control in order to decrease risk of cardiovascular complications.  It is not uncommon for someone to be taking three BP medications, yet blood pressure is still high.  Many patients complain about side effects like fatigue, impotence, or decline in kidney function.

Theory of Chinese Medicine
Puzzled about the western medicine approach, I began to study traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) over thirty years ago.  What is TCM really treating?  A short answer is that it treats circulation, improves blood flow to organs and tissue.   An alternative theory and treatment for hypertension from the TCM perspective is that hypertension is a deficiency state characterized by poor tissue/organ blood perfusion due to blood stagnation.  The heart compensates by working harder to pump out more blood, thus the high blood pressure.  The goal of TCM treatment is to improve blood flow to different organs through the combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

There are different subtypes of hypertension.  In TCM terminology, some may have excess energy such as liver fire or liver yang rising or stomach fire.  They are treated with cooling method.  Chinese pulse diagnosis detects the different subtypes and change in circulatory status of a person and serves as a guide to the use of herbs.

Kidney Yang Deficiency type of Hypertension Case Illustration
A 67 year old female wanted to know if I can treat her deteriorating kidney function.  She has had a long standing history of hypertension and systolic BP went up by 30 mmHg lately.  She noticed more fatigue.  Her pulse confirmed my suspicion : kidney yang deficiency, which means in modern medicine decreased kidney blood flow.  The pulse diagnosis matched her chief complaints and her recent kidney function.  She had been on moderately high dose of Beta blocker for twenty years.  She felt better quickly with normalized BP through a combination of herbs and acupuncture, and I boldly asked her to check with her cardiologist to change her Beta blocker to another drug in a different class.





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