Integrative Medicine for Hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs when the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart beats is higher than normal. According to data from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, approximately one in three adults in the United States are affected by hypertension. The Integrative Medical approach to hypertension involves treatment by a traditionally trained, licensed physician who specializes in combining standard medical treatments, such as blood pressure lowering medications, with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
How Can Integrative Medicine Treat Hypertension?
Physicians who practice Integrative Medicine utilize an arsenal of alternative and complementary therapies in addition to standard Western treatment options. The large number of combined therapy options provides them with an advantage of creating an individualized treatment plan for a hypertensive patient. Physicians specializing in Integrative Medicine often have an open-minded approach to treating hypertension that appeals to many patients and increases the likelihood of finding the best treatment plan.
As an example, a physician practicing Integrative Medicine may recommend instruction in stress reduction techniques and yoga to help individuals remain calm in stressful situations and keep blood pressure down naturally, in conjunction with lower doses of prescription medications to regulate blood pressure. Over the course of their lives, patients may have difficulty remembering to take a pill, but they will most likely remember the techniques they learned to help reduce stress and promote relaxation. By working with a physician who combines complementary therapies with standard Western treatments, better long-term results can be achieved.
Why Use Integrative Medicine to Treat Hypertension?
Reduction of high blood pressure (hypertension) is essential to long term health and quality of life. Integrative Medicine’s goal to combine standard health care and alternative therapies to control blood pressure levels is more effective than standard Western therapies alone and can provide a foundation for future health. Scientific studies found that the Integrative Medical treatment approach was associated with significant increases in quality of life in a diverse population with many different life-affecting disease symptoms and daily functional limitations. In addition, more targeted studies have found that Integrative Medicine approaches such as acupuncture can help normalize blood pressure and can complement standard medical treatments for cardiovascular patients.
Although the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) portion of the Integrated Medical approach does not always provide an exact scientific explanation for its effectiveness, the results speak for themselves as they support the treating physician’s goal to prevent or cure disease by treating both mental and physical aspects of a patient.
How Do I Begin Integrative Medicine Treatment?
Integrative treatment for hypertension begins with an evaluation by an allopathic, or traditionally trained, medical physician who integrates complementary or alternative medicine therapies with allopathic therapies. The Integrative Medicine physician will combine Western medical techniques such as measuring blood pressure and other cardiac tests to determine how severe the hypertension is with complementary evaluation techniques. After a detailed examination, the physician develops a treatment plan utilizing standard of care Western treatments and alternative or complementary therapies. For example, the physician might prescribe acupuncture and dietary supplements in combination with blood-pressure-lowering medications and specific lifestyle changes. The physicians’ goal is to combine specific alternative or complementary treatments that mesh well with the standard of care Western medical treatments to develop a comprehensive and customized treatment plan for hypertension.
What is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative Medicine is a style of medical practice performed by allopathic physicians who are traditionally trained in Western medicine but have integrated alternative or complementary therapies into their treatment plans for patients. A physician practicing Integrative Medicine provides a balanced treatment plan that includes standard Western medications and heart tests, as well as appropriate alternative medical treatments such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, and massage.
The Integrative physicians learn more about alternative therapy options through research and training. Before recommending a specific therapy, practitioners strive to find the best treatments by examining the patient and their medical history and weighing the evidence for effectiveness and harm for both conventional and complementary therapies.
Alternative or complementary therapies a physician may recommend in addition to anti-hypertensive medication and lifestyle changes may include: meditation, music and art therapy, hypnosis, focused relaxation, psychotherapy acupuncture, massage, and other adjunctive therapy. Physicians may also recommend particular nutritional supplements or herbal treatments, but they are aware of herbs and supplements which can have harmful interactions with conventional therapies. For example, herbs such as Ma-huang, Astragalus, and Black Cohosh can interact negatively with standard anti-hypertensive medications to worsen hypertension and/or cause other cardiovascular side effects. Physicians practicing Interactive Medicine provide treatments with a low risk of untoward interactions between the complementary medications and any conventional therapies.
In general, Integrative Medicine can be seen as an open-minded, physician directed approach to health that promotes holistic management of medical conditions. The goal of Integrative Medicine is to treat the whole person, not just one aspect of his or her disease.
What Causes Hypertension?
The causes of hypertension are different from person to person. Factors and conditions that may play a role include becoming older, medical problems (such as kidney disease), certain medications (such as asthma medications), pregnancy, birth control pills, or genetic conditions. Most individuals with hypertension do not have any identifiable symptoms. After many years of hypertension, long-term damage can occur, leading to symptoms such as headaches and serious medical complications such as heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
Weil, Andrew T. Health and Healing: The Philosophy of Integrative Medicine and Optimum Health, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1998.
Wengell, Douglas and Nathen Gabriel, Educational Opportunities in Integrative Medicine: The A to Z Healing Arts Guide and Professional Resource Directory, The Hunter Press, September 1, 2008.