Acupuncture improves the functional and physical health of the heart in cases of chronic heart failure (CHF). Research published in the American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory Physiology demonstrates several major clinical benefits provided by acupuncture in cases of CHF. One of the most important discoveries is that acupuncture reduces the physical size of damage to the heart, infarct size, due to heart failure.
The researchers note that CHF is associated with significant neurohumoral responses including excess sympathetic nervous system activity. In this laboratory experiment, acupuncture demonstrated significant homeostatic regulatory effects on sympathetic nervous system responses. Excess cardiac sympathetic afferent reflexes resulting in overactive sympathetic tone combined with deficient parasympathetic activity is contributory towards heart failure and the risk of sudden death. Acupuncture successfully demonstrated regulatory responses on these systems to improve overall cardiac health.
Echocardiography and other scientific tests demonstrated that acupuncture reduces infarct size and improves important aspects of cardiac function including ventricular ejection and fraction shortening. Acupuncture demonstrated several other important cardiovascular benefits. Acupuncture significantly lowered blood pressure, successfully inhibited sympathetic afferent reflexes (CSAR) and was also effective in reducing renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA). Other benefits include “dramatically increased” left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), left ventricular fraction shortening (LVFS), a reversal of left ventricular end-systolic dimension (LVESD) enlargement and left ventricular end-diastolic dimension (LVEDD).
Acupuncture significantly reduced infarct sizes and electroacupuncture significantly regulated excess sympathetic nerve stimulation of the cardiovascular system. The researchers note that the beneficial cardiac function effects are long-term. The researchers concluded that acupuncture is a “potentially useful therapy for treating CHF.”
The researchers note that prior research demonstrates that electroacupuncture at acupoints PC5 and PC6 is effective in regulating “cardiovascular sympathoexcitatory reflex-induced” responses. As a result, these acupuncture points were chosen for this controlled laboratory investigation. Based on the important findings in this study, the researchers recommend continued investigation into the mechanisms and applications of acupuncture for improved cardiac health.
Ma, Luyao, Bai-Ping Cui, Yongfeng Shao, Buqing Ni, Weiran Zhang, Yonggang Luo, and S. Zhang. "Electroacupuncture improves cardiac function and remodeling by inhibition of sympathoexcitation in chronic heart failure rats." American journal of physiology. Heart and circulatory physiology (2014).