People at risk for heart disease should strive to keep their systolic blood pressure -- the higher of the two numbers you hear at the doctor's office -- below 120, a new national study finds.

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That target is more aggressive than the currently recommended 140, or even the 130 recommended for those with kidney disease or diabetes.

The study, conducted by the National Institutes of Health at more than 100 sites, found that the death rate was lower by nearly a quarter in patients who achieved 120 rather than 140. In addition, the rate of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke was one-third lower in patients who got the more aggressive treatment. On average, they were given three blood-pressure medications instead of two.