A study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute was stopped earlier than planned when the benefits of aggressively managing high blood pressure in people over the age of 50 were clearly demonstrated.

The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial was begun in 2009, with over 9,000 participants who were at least 50 years old, including women, minorities and the elderly. When SPRINT was designed, the recommended systolic target was 140 for healthy adults.

The blood pressure of some of the participants in the trial was adjusted with medication to achieve a rate of 120. Others were given medication to lower the systolic rate to what they believed was a healthy target of 140.

Researchers found that the group whose blood pressure was more aggressively lowered had almost a third fewer heart attacks, heart failure and strokes. The risk of death among those with the lower blood pressure was reduced by a quarter compared to people with a systolic pressure of 140.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans have high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Doctors at NHLBI said that the health benefits of lower blood pressure for people over 50 or who are high risk were clear.

In a news release, Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute said, “We are delighted to have achieved this important milestone in the study in advance of the expected closure date for the SPRINT trial and look forward to quickly communicating the results to help inform patient care …”

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