In this second blog on the article from WebMD titled, "Acupuncture Improves Function in Heart Failure Patients" we will analyze more of the basis of the improved health for patients with congestive heart failure.
The article concludes that how acupuncture was able to help with the symptoms of congestive heart failure is due to the fact that it was helping with regulating the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight mode of the body. Whenever you are under a high-stress condition, the sympathetic nervous system comes in. The article makes a great point that the sympathetic nervous system allows for the body to deliver increased amounts of blood to all parts of your body, to help you escape or deal with the danger ahead of you. The problem is that if this system is on all the time this can lead to big problems. The body can only demand so much increased blood flow from the heart before the heart starts having physical difficulties meeting the demands.
In most patients with congestive heart failure, there appears to be an increase in activity of the sympathetic nervous system. The increased stress on the body occurs as the person tries to compensate for the decreased amount of oxygen in the body. This creates in them a chronic increase in the sympathetic nervous system as the body almost panics as it tries to find a way to deliver more oxygen. This then leads the body to go to the heart to strengthen contractions but this short term solution only leads to a long term problem, as the heart begins to weaken.
One of the doctor's in the study stated, "Advanced heart failure patients have two or three times more sympathetic nerve activity than normal individuals. It has been shown that the greater this activity this is, the worse the outlook for the patient, so reducing it could be crucial." I couldn't agree more with that statement. I believe that a large part of my patients with chronic heart problems, including congestive heart failure, are doing better due to helping regulate the central nervous system. This aspect of stepping back and looking at the body as a whole is crucial to supporting the overall health of individuals with chronic ailments, and is an aspect that I hope continues to grow in medicine.