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  • Writer's picturePhilip Niño Tan-Gatue

Acupuncture Decreases risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Greetings everyone! I have been blogging sporadically for the last year or so due to so many events occupying my time. I’ve been studying again in Malaysia and in Tianjin, China. Anyhow here is my first blog post for 2019.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis, or RA, is a disease wherein the body’s immune system attacks it’s own tissues, ending up in swelling and pain of the joints. These patients are at higher risk of coronary artery disease. In turn, this leads to greater propensity for heart attacks.

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A Taiwanese study done recently aimed to show if acupuncture can turn the tide a bit. Acupuncture is already used a lot in treating the pain involved in rheumatoid arthritis – why can’t it be used to further prevent its complications?

The Study

This is what the scientists did:

We identified 29,741 patients with newly diagnosed RA from January 1997 to December 2010 from the Registry of Catastrophic Illness Patients Database from the Taiwanese National Health Insurance Research Database. Among them, 10,199 patients received acupuncture (acupuncture users), and 19,542 patients did not receive acupuncture (no-acupuncture users). After performing 1:1 propensity score matching by sex, age, baseline comorbidity, conventional treatment, initial diagnostic year, and index year, there were 9932 patients in both the acupuncture and no-acupuncture cohorts. The main outcome was the diagnosis of CHD in patients with RA in the acupuncture and no-acupuncture cohorts.

What this means is that the researchers took almost thirty thousand patients who were newly diagnosed with RA. About a third received acupuncture and two-thirds did not. Of these, they tried to get patients with similar gender, age, and lifestyle and risk for disease and compared them. So out of the thirty thousand patients, about ten thousand, each divided into acupuncture and non acupuncture groups, were compared


Here were the results

Acupuncture users had a lower incidence of CHD than non-users (adjusted HR = 0.60, 95% CI = 0.55-0.65). The estimated cumulative incidence of CHD was significantly lower in the acupuncture cohort (log-rank test, p < .001). Subgroup analysis showed that patients receiving manual acupuncture of traditional Chinese medicine style, electroacupuncture, or combination of both all had a lower incidence of CHD than patients never receiving acupuncture treatment. The beneficial effect of acupuncture on preventing CHD was independent of age, sex, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and statins use.

This study shows that acupuncture users IN GENERAL have a lower chance of getting heart attacks than non acupuncture users. This is even true in patients who are getting acupuncture EVEN FOR NON CARDIAC INDICATIONS.

This research thus encourages me to tell people to get “maintenance” acupuncture as it can really help in disease prevention.


Wu, et al. Acupuncture decreased the risk of coronary heart disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis in Taiwan: a Nationwide propensity score-matched study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018 Dec 22;18(1):341. doi: 10.1186/s12906-018-2384-5.

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