blood pressure number

Illustration: Peter Oumanski

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People with high blood pressure have often been told to aim for a systolic BP (the top number of the reading) of less than 140 mm Hg. But the results of a recent landmark clinical trial, called the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), suggest you should be aiming about 20 points lower. The SPRINT study, which included more than 9,300 participants age 50 and older, found the likelihood of a "cardiovascular event" (such as a heart attack or heart failure) was 25 percent lower among those with a systolic pressure of less than 120 mm Hg than for those who hovered closer to 140. The risk of death among those below 120 mm Hg was 27 percent lower, too. Bottom line: If you're over 50 and on blood pressure meds, talk to your doctor about how low you should go.

Mehmet Oz, MD, is the host of The Dr. Oz Show (weekdays; check local listings).