Acupuncture may lower stroke risk in rheumatoid arthritis

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People with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the joints, have a higher chance of getting heart diseases, including strokes.

A stroke happens when the blood flow to a part of the brain gets blocked. Researchers have found that acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body, might help lower this risk.

A study looked into the health records of nearly 48,000 adults who were newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis from 1997 to 2010. Out of these, about half received acupuncture after their diagnosis.

The study compared these patients with those who didn’t receive acupuncture, matching them based on factors like age, sex, other health conditions, and medications.

Most patients who got acupuncture received manual acupuncture, where the needles are moved by hand. A small percentage received electroacupuncture, which uses electrical pulses, and some received both types.

On average, patients started acupuncture about three years after their rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and had about ten sessions.

The study found that those who had acupuncture had a 43% lower risk of having a stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain compared to those who didn’t have acupuncture.

This finding was consistent regardless of the patients’ age, sex, medications, and other health issues.

The researchers think acupuncture might reduce the risk of stroke by lowering the levels of proteins in the body that cause inflammation and are linked to heart disease.

Acupuncture might also help control high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which are risk factors for stroke.

Additionally, if acupuncture reduces joint pain and stiffness, patients might be more active, which could also help lower their stroke risk.

However, the study has its limits. It’s observational, meaning it can’t prove that acupuncture directly prevents strokes.

Also, the researchers didn’t have information on some factors that could affect stroke risk, like diet or how severe the patients’ rheumatoid arthritis was.

Despite these limitations, the study suggests that acupuncture could be a helpful addition to standard treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, potentially offering a natural way to reduce the risk of stroke and improve overall health.

If you care about stroke, please read studies about how to eat to prevent stroke, and diets high in flavonoids could help reduce stroke risk.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and wild blueberries can benefit your heart and brain.

The research findings can be found in BMJ Open.

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