Islamabad: A new study suggests that a form of acupuncture may benefit patients with high blood pressure and lower their risk of stroke and heart disease.

Electroacupuncture is a form of acupuncture that applies low-intensity electrical pulses through needles inserted at specific points on the body.

The single-blind trial, conducted at the University of California-Irvine (UCI), is the first scientific confirmation that the ancient Chinese medical technique is beneficial for patients with mild to moderate hypertension.

In the journal Medical Acupuncture, the team describes finding how electroacupuncture can lower blood pressure for up to 6 weeks in patients with hypertension.

Electroacupuncture is a form of acupuncture that applies low-intensity electrical pulses through needles inserted at specific points on the body.

The researchers say their findings suggest that with regular use, electroacupuncture could help people manage their blood pressure and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke in the longer term.

Senior author John Longhurst, a cardiologist and UCI professor of medicine, says the clinical study comes after nearly 10 years of bench research into the effect of acupuncture on high blood pressure . He adds:

"By using Western scientific rigor to validate an ancient Eastern therapy, we feel we have integrated Chinese and Western medicine and provided a beneficial guideline for treating a disease that affects millions in the US."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 70 million American adults (29%) with high blood pressure - only about half of whom have the condition under control.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that has been in use for over 3,000 years

It uses thin needles to stimulate one or more out of hundreds of specific points on the body

US regulators approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996.

High blood pressure costs the US some $46 billion a year. This figure covers health care services, medications and absence from work. For their study, Prof. Longhurst and colleagues recruited 65 patients with hypertension who were not taking any drugs to treat their condition. Each patient was randomly assigned to one of two groups.

Both groups were treated with electroacupuncture, except that one group (the treatment group) had it applied to both sides of the inner wrists and slightly below each knee (acupoints thought to reduce blood pressure), and the other group had it applied to other acupoints along the forearm and lower leg (the control group).

The trial was a single-blind trial. That means the practitioners giving the treatment knew which patients were in the treatment group and which were in the control group, but the patients did not.

The results showed that 70% of the 33 patients in the treatment group experienced a noticeable drop in blood pressure . On average, the reduction was 6-8 mm/Hg for systolic blood pressure and 4 mm/Hg for diastolic blood pressure .