Cardiovascular system

The Cardiovascular or Circulatory System

Heart disease is one of the biggest medical concerns in the world today, and there is much positive research on how, what and whether acupuncture can help.

According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), in 2010 (their most recent reliable published figures) cardiovascular disease was the biggest killer in the UK¹. Globally, coronary heart disease (CHD), is the second biggest killer behind cancer²; some sources say it is even the biggest. Each year, however, these figures appear to be falling (e.g. death rates from heart attack have halved since 2002)¹, and we have the means and understanding to make a much bigger difference now than in the past 60 years.
The heart and the cardiovascular (circulatory) system – made up of veins, arteries and capillaries – are integral to each other in function and in action – to circulate blood around the body to ensure healthy immunity, the transportation of oxygen and nutrition, and the removal of waste. In Chinese medicine, there are further functions governed by the Heart (written with a capital to denote not just the organ but all associated functions), which include the circulatory system, mental and emotional health, sleep, memory, sweating, and our self expression. Furthermore, the Heart is known as the Supreme Controller, analogous to role of the Emperor – responsible for the overall sustainability of the entire body or empire. So the diminishing figures of heart disease in various forms is of increased importance.

There are many imbalances that manifest in the heart and cardiovascular system in the modern scientific medical view, such as:

– hypertension (high blood pressure)

– high cholesterol

– stroke

– myocardial infarction (heart attack)

– angina

– atherosclerosis (furring or hardening of the arteries)

– heart failure

The majority of cases of heart disease are the results of an imbalanced lifestyle over the long term – not understanding and practising how to best maintain our own health. Society is structured in a way that supports this, we need not blame the individual. But it is changing and will continue to change. Through the years, we have come more and more to understand not only how to resolve these imbalances, but also how to avoid them in the first place, which is the real work to be done.

I was speaking to a leading London heart surgeon a couple of months ago, who obtains fantastic results for people in critical health conditions. He expressed his dismay, however, at how he is most often treating people at such an advanced stage of imbalance. He is a very busy man. So what can we do to improve our lifestyles and diet, to ensure we do what we can to live with healthy hearts and keep off the heart surgeon’s table?

Exercise, diet, emotional balance and acupuncture

Harvard Medical School actively encourages its patients, students and subscribers to exercise regularly for heart health, explaining how exercise can add years to your life by restoring the health to your blood vessels: “Exercise lessens your risk of developing heart disease and having a stroke. It lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of developing certain cancers, strengthens bones, protects joints, and keeps your mind sharp.” Enough said, no matter how resistant our minds can become to exercising, it is most definitely of great benefit, not only to our bodies, but also to our minds. There are many options available, from qigong, tai chi and yoga to martial arts, sports, athletics and the gym.

Exercise and a diet high in fruit and vegetables promote cardiovascular health, and exercise not only ensures healthy blood and circulation, but also releases feel good hormones like:

dopamine; which has been shown to be more deficient in the brain in relation to a person’s body mass index – meaning the more fat you carry, the more dopamine you need to feel before feeling full, either through eating more or through exercise.

endorphins; responsible for a reduction in pain and a feeling of exhilaration, making cravings less effective and weight loss more certain long term.

serotonin, growth factors and estrogen; helping us burn fat, repair and grow muscles and bringing better emotional balance.

Certain heart conditions respond better to certain foods, but there are strong indications now that animal products (including dairy products) are strong factors in promoting cardiovascular and heart diseases.³ Processed and fried foods also are known to impair circulatory health. In the ancient Chinese dietary therapy, vegetables are seen to help detox the body, and animal protein – whilst being the best form of protein to nourish our blood – is somewhat toxic; so the ancient advice is to eat no more than 20% animal products in your diet.

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The Emotions of the Five Elements

Emotions are clearly linked to the release of hormones into the bloodstream, in a similar way to exercise. HeartMath, an internationally recognised non-profit research and education organisation studying the effect of self development on the body and the planet, has led ground-breaking research that demonstrates how emotional balance can be an extremely influential factor on the immune system as well as heart health – for example, the difference between anger and compassion on heart health.4 In fact, I teach the ancient (notice the trend here?) system of Emotional Balance as developed in Chinese medicine with regular courses in London, which shows how Compassion is the antidote to Anger, which both feed the Heart – one for better, one for worse.

Dr Bruce Lipton, another internationally renowned proponent of the importance of emotional balance, has shown how DNA can be changed by our intention – by our thoughts and emotions, as well as diet and environment.5 When we understand that emotions such as stress and anger raise blood pressure and require an immune response, whereas emotions such as peace and compassion boost our immunity, the link between emotion and heart health becomes clear.

Finally, acupuncture can help support you through the changes that can make a lasting difference by motivating you, helping instigate and augment the healing process, and increasing emotional harmony. Book in for treatment today so you can start making changes immediately.


1. 2012 CHD Statistics Compendium, British Heart Foundation

2. The Complementary Therapist’s Guide to Conventional Medicine: A Textbook and Study Course, Stephenson, C.

3. The China Study: Startling Implications For Diet, Weight Loss And Long-Term Health, Campbell and Campbell

4. Emotional Balance and the Heart, The Institute of HeartMath

5. You Can Change Your DNA, The Institute of HeartMath