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Research: Cardiovascular

September 2010
Acupuncture improves exercise tolerance of patients with heart failure: a placebo-controlled pilot study.
Heart, September 2010, Volume 96, Issue 17, pages 1396-1400
BACKGROUND: Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a complex clinical syndrome with autonomic dysbalance and increased plasma levels of inflammatory cytokines, which further worsen the syndrome. Experimental data have shown that stimulation of certain acupoints decreases autonomic dysbalance. OBJECTIVE: To test the therapeutic potential of acupuncture for life-threatening diseases such as CHF. METHODS: 17 stable patients with CHF (New York Heart Association class II-III, ejection fraction <40%) receiving optimised heart failure medication were randomised into a verum acupuncture (VA) and placebo acupuncture (PA) group. Cardiopulmonary function, heart rate variability and quality of life were explored. RESULTS: No improvements of the cardiac ejection fraction or peak oxygen uptake were observed, but the ambulated 6 min walk distance was remarkably increased in the VA group (+32+/-7 m) but not the PA group (-1+/-11 m; p<0.01). Accordingly, post-exercise recovery after maximal exercise and the VE/VCO(2) slope, a marker of ventilatory efficiency, were improved after VA but not PA. Furthermore, heart rate variability increased after VA, but decreased after PA. The 'general health' score and 'body pain' score of the quality-of-life questionnaire SF-36 tended to be improved after VA.
CONCLUSION: Acupuncture may become an additional therapeutic strategy to improve the exercise tolerance of patients with CHF, potentially by improving skeletal muscle function.

July 2010

Evaluation of the lipid lowering ability, anti-inflammatory effects and clinical safety of intensive therapy with Zhibitai, a Chinese traditional medicine.
Atherosclerosis, July 2010, Volume 211, Issue 1, pages 237-241
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the lipid lowering ability, anti-inflammatory effects and clinical safety of intensive therapy of the Chinese traditional medicine Zhibitai in subjects with moderate to high cardiovascular risk. METHODS: A total of 169 subjects (96 males and 73 females, aged 55-72) having moderate to high cardiovascular risk were recruited and randomly divided into Zhibitai group (n=85), which received 480 mg of Zhibitai orally twice daily, and atorvastatin group (n=84), which received 10 mg of atorvastatin orally once a day. Blood lipoproteins, myocardial enzymes, liver and renal functions were measured before treatment started, and after 4 and 8 weeks of the treatment. High sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), P-selectin, matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-1) were measured before and after the treatment. RESULTS: Plasma total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) were significantly decreased, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) was increased in both groups, after 4 and 8 weeks of treatment (p<0.05 for all pairs). Interestingly, plasma triglycerides (TG) decreased in the Zhibitai group after 4 weeks of treatment but only decreased in the atorvastatin group after 8 weeks. Inflammatory factors such as hs-CRP, P-selectin, MMP-9 and sICAM-1 were significantly decreased in both groups after 8 weeks (p<0.01 for all pairs). Furthermore, there was no difference in myocardial enzymes, hepatic and renal function test parameters, incidence of myopathy or gastrointestinal tract symptoms in either group.
CONCLUSION: Zhibitai therapy is a good alternative to statin therapy to reduce plasma cholesterol levels in subjects with moderate to high cardiovascular risk. Most importantly, Zhibitai is safe to use.
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