When it comes to heart health, there’s bad news and there’s good news.
The bad news?
Every day, more than 1,671 people die of heart disease in
the United States alone according to data provided by the Centers for Disease
Prevention (CDC). That’s almost 70 people per hour (more than one per
minute) who lose their lives due to this one condition, making it the leading
cause of death nationwide.
The CDC adds that another 383 individuals per day die due to stroke, though this life threatening medical condition actually occurs, on average, once every 40 seconds. Additionally, an overwhelming number of these strokes (87 percent) block the flow of blood to the brain.
So, what is the good news when it comes to heart health? The good news is that there are many things people can do to prevent their risk of heart-related issues such as heart disease and stroke.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has
dedicated February as the month for sharing these healthy heart actions by
naming it American Heart Month. Though the NHLBI focuses primarily on reminding
people to move around more in order to achieve greater heart health,
chiropractic has been found helpful as well.
Chiropractic and heart rate variability
One of the factors used to determine heart health is heart
rate variability, or HRV. Harvard
Medical School explains that HRV is defined as “a measure of the variation
in time between each heartbeat” and is often used to help healthcare
practitioners identify whether there are imbalances in the body’s autonomic
nervous system. According to research, chiropractic has a positive effect on
For instance, in a 2006
study published in the Journal of
Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 96 physicians were each tasked
with noting the HRV of 10 different subjects both before and after receiving a
chiropractic adjustment. Two of these ten would be monitored more long term,
with their HRV data collected over a period of four weeks.
At the beginning of this study, it was noted that
participants had a mean heart rate of 76.7. However, after just one
chiropractic treatment session, that mean lowered to 74.3. The high-frequency
component, low-frequency component, and total power all increased as well,
remaining at “statistically significant levels” in the subjects who were
studied for the 4-week timeframe.
This is important as Harvard stresses that a low variation occurs
“if a person’s system is in more of a flight-or-flight mode” whereas a high
variation between beats signals that a person is relaxed. Harvard goes on to
say that high HRV’s are also consistent with greater cardiovascular fitness and
greater stress resilience.
Chiropractic for greater overall health
Not only is chiropractic helpful to improving heart health,
but it can also improve overall health as well. For instance, a 2011 study
published in the Journal of General
Internal Medicine found that approximately 37 percent of U.S. adults engage
in complementary and alternative medicine, commonly referred to as CAM.
When asked how about their self-perceived level of health,
this group was more likely to feel that their health was ‘excellent’ than those
who did not engage in alternative forms of medicine. They were also more likely
to report that their health had improved during the previous 12 months.
Although the researchers suggest that more studies be done
to determine causality—whether CAM use directly improves health or is merely
related by some other factor—they do stress that “a significant association”
between the two does exist.
What about chiropractic and stroke?
Despite all of the studies connecting chiropractic with
greater heart health and greater health in general, some patients are concerned
that engaging in this type of care can potentially cause a stroke. What does
research say on this topic?
According to a 2008
study in the journal Spine, after
studying 818 patients hospitalized for vertebrobasilar artery (VBA) stroke, for
those over the age of 45, they were three times more likely to have either
treated with a chiropractor or primary care physician prior to their stroke
That said, researchers also indicated that they “found no
evidence of excess risk of VBA stroke associated chiropractic care compared to
primary care.” Additionally, any association that may potentially exist between
care and stroke could be because headache and neck pain typically appear before
a VBA stroke occurs, thus causing the patient to seek treatment, which may
explain why a correlation exists.
Another study, this
one a bit newer as it was published in Chiropractic
& Manual Therapies in 2015, involved 1,829 VBA stroke cases and found
the same results. Thus, this set of researchers also concluded that “manipulation
is an unlikely cause of VBA stroke.”
This February, help your patients achieve a higher level of
heart health by encouraging them to maintain a consistent chiropractic regimen.
Their live may just depend on it.