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Healthy blood pressure is lower than previously thought: Study

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor likely gave you a systolic blood pressure target of about 140.

But research from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that setting the target lower, at 120, cut the incidence of heart disease and death in adults 50 and over.

In the SPRINT study (Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial), medication was adjusted for some participants to get them to the lower systolic goal. In those people, rates of heart attack, heart failure and stroke were reduced by a third, while risk of death was reduced by a quarter.

The study, which began in 2009, followed 9,300 people over the age of 50 from all over the U.S. The people were randomly divided into two groups: one would be given medication to reach a target systolic blood pressure of 140, while the other would go for 120.

The study did not include patients with diabetes, prior stroke, or polycystic kidney disease.

The study was not scheduled to be complete until 2017, but the results were dramatic enough that the National Institutes of Health felt they should be released early.