Acupuncture for Heart Attack Patients
Even in ancient times, the idea of heart attacks was not unknown in China. While the old timers obviously did not yet know the specifics about how myocardial infarcts or heart attacks came about, their recorded testimonies and terminologies showed that the famous doctors of the past learned a lot about it from observation. What is called by the classical texts of Chinese Medicine as Blood Stasis of the Heart may actually correspond to what we now call Coronary Artery Disease.
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Acupuncture and Angiogenesis
To be precise, a myocardial infarction or heart attack is when, a clog occurs in the blood vessels that bring blood to the heart itself. Obviously this means that the heart cannot supply food and oxygen to itself as it does to the rest of the body. The result of his is that heart tissue itself suffers and could die, leading to complications. After medical treatment stabilizes the patient’s condition, some problems may remain such as finding new ways to restore proper blood flow to the heart.
Research has shown that acupuncture can help with this aspect, called angiogenesis. Angiogenesis means making new blood vessels. Recent research by Fu and others has shown that acupuncture can help with this.
The scientists in one study used electroacupuncture on point PC6 Neiguan, a point more commonly associated with the treatment of nausea. However, let us not forget that the PC in PC6 Neiguan stands for the pericardium channel, which we know has effects on the heart.
In the experiment, the researches tied up the left coronary artery – one of the main blood vessels supplying the heart – in rats. This stimulates a heart attack. By using the point PC6, the scientists confirmed that, and I quote:
Our results showed that acupuncture reversed the S-T segment change, reduced Q-wave area, decreased CK, CK-MB, LDH levels, mitigated myocardial remodeling, and promoted microvessel formation in the MI heart. RNA-seq analysis showed that VEGF-induced angiogenesis signaling was involved in the modulation of EA. Western blot results verified that the protein expressions of VEGF, Ras, phospho-p44/42 MAPK, phospho-p38 MAPK, phospho-SAPK/JNK and Akt, were all elevated significantly by EA treatment in the MI heart. Furthermore, increased H3K9 acetylation was also observed according with the VEGF. ChIP assay confirmed that EA treatment could notably stimulate the recruitment of H3K9ace at the VEGF promoter.
In plain English, it looked like the heart attack reversed itself on ECG, and on blood tests. They also found that needling the point activated the body’s inherent ability to generate new blood vessels (VEGF-induced angiogenesis). Advanced protein studies confirmed that acupuncture did so by actually activating mechanisms on a genetic level.
All in all, acupuncture won’t substitute for post heart attack cardiac rehabilitation, but evidence shows that it can help speed up the process.
Fu, SP et al. “Acupuncture Promotes Angiogenesis after Myocardial Ischemia through H3K9 Acetylation Regulation at VEGF Gene.” PLoS One. 2014 Apr 10;9(4):e94604. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094604. eCollection 2014 (link)
Yu, G., and J. Wang. “Blood Stasis Syndrome of Coronary Heart Disease: A Perspective of Modern Medicine.” Chin J Integr Med (2013). (link)