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A new study has been released about the effects of acupuncture reducing the risks of strokes (both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes) in correlation of its benefits treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA). 

In RA, the immune system attacks the joints and leaves them sore, swollen, and stiff. But RA is more than a joint disease. It also affects other parts of your body, including your heart.

Having RA nearly doubles your risk for heart disease. It also increases your risk for a stroke, which happens when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to your brain becomes blocked or bursts.

Knowing your stroke risk is important. Stroke is one of the main causes of death and disability in Ireland. A stroke can affect your speech, memory, and movement.

If you’re at risk of stroke because of RA, weight gain, high blood pressure, or other factors, know that there are things you can do right now to help prevent a stroke.

What’s the connection in Western Medicine?

It is unknown from a Western medicine’s perspective however they consider different factors involved for the risk of RA and stroke:

Inflammation: RA increases the risk for stroke, but osteoarthritis (OA) doesn’t. What’s the difference between these two types of arthritis? Inflammation. RA causes inflammation all over your body. In OA, the inflammation is only in the joint. When you have RA, your immune system attacks your joints. That attack releases inflammatory chemicals called cytokines that damage your joints and cause symptoms like swelling and pain. RA doesn’t stop at your joints, though. Those same inflammatory cells damage your blood vessels. Inflammation makes your blood cells stick together and form clots. It also speeds the buildup of plaques on artery walls, called atherosclerosis. Those plaques narrow blood vessels and block the flow of blood, which increases your risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Obesity: Sore joints make it harder to exercise. A lack of exercise can lead to weight gain. In addition, steroid medicines used to treat RA also promote weight gain.

Smoking: smoking speeds joint and blood vessel damage. 

High Blood Pressure: People with RA have less flexible arteries that can’t widen enough to let more blood through. Narrow arteries lead to high blood pressure.

What’s the connection in Chinese Medicine?

RA is a condition considered in Chinese Medicine as a pattern of disharmony (or unbalance) being the most common Wind-Damp as initial stage along with other symptoms such as edema, swelling and urinary difficulties; and a progressive development into Painful obstruction due to Wind-Damp and Cold where other symptoms may appear such as dizziness, headaches and nauseas. The progressive joint damage and involves the Liver function therefore there is a relation of Heart and Liver disharmony.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is based on the 5 elements theory where the five elements that complete nature (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood) are correlated to everything we see and feel in the Universe. The Wood relates to Liver and subsequently, to the Joints whereas Fire relates to the Heart and subsequently, the blood control.

Wood element generates the Fire element as wood is necessary as combustible to create fire. Therefore there is no fire without wood. If Wood gets deficient (Liver function gets deficient) then the Fire doesn’t get enough Wood to keep the flame up so Heart gets deficient. That’s why those who suffer from RA eventually develop the risks of strokes and not the opposite direction. 

In Chinese Medicine, when Heart gets unbalanced, the blow flow also decreases creating the appearance of Damp (something “thick” building up in our body when basal metabolism gets slower) and Cold (if bloodstream goes slow, the body gets cooler in time) and Wind appears (Liver builds blood but if it gets deficient, Wind appears). As noticed, it is a complicated syndrome with many factors involved so the treatment involves acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Regular acupuncture has been proven to reduce the levels of cytokines in blood, which are responsable to create a chronic inflammatory environment inside of our body, responsable of increasing the risks of stokes apart of creating a joint pain. 

By combining sessions of acupuncture and herbal medicine, RA can be controlled so the risks of strokes also reduces dramatically.

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