Today, federal health officials announced the "potentially lifesaving" results of a major study that could reduce the overall mortality rate of the United States, the New York Times reports. The study, which looked at 9,300 people over the age of 50, found that doctors aren't aiming low enough when it comes to reducing high blood pressure. Current guidelines call for people with high systolic pressure—the pressure on blood vessels when the heart contracts—to lower it to 140. But new research shows lowering it below 120 can reduce the risk of heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke by one-third and lower the risk of death by nearly 25%. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, where about one in three adults has high blood pressure.
“It is outstanding news,” the president of the American Heart Association tells the Times. “It will serve as a road map and will save a significant amount of lives.” NPR reports researchers stopped the study early because the findings were so conclusive and important. "If we have a patient in our office tomorrow who fits the criteria of this trial it certainly doesn't seem too early to begin to lower our target to 120," one medical director tells NPR. But it's easier said than done, as half of Americans being treated for high blood pressure fail to reduce it even as low as 140. And, the Times reports, getting people in the study to 120 required an average of three different drugs. (Read more high blood pressure stories.)