To assess the ability of antihypertensive drug treatment to reduce the risk of nonfatal and fatal (total) stroke in isolated systolic hypertension. Multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled. Community-based ambulatory population in tertiary care centers. 4736 persons (1.06%) from 447,921 screenees aged 60 years and above were randomized (2365 to active treatment, 2371 to placebo). Systolic blood pressure ranged from 160 to 219 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure was less than 90 mm Hg. Of the participants, 3161 were not receiving antihypertensive medication at initial contact, and 1575 were. The average systolic blood pressure was 170 mm Hg; average diastolic blood pressure, 77 mm Hg. The mean age was 72 years, 57% were women, and 14% were black. --Participants were stratified by clinical center and by antihypertensive medication status at initial contact. For step 1 of the trial, dose 1 was chlorthalidone, 12.5 mg/d, or matching placebo; dose 2 was 25 mg/d. For step 2, dose 1 was atenolol, 25 mg/d, or matching placebo; dose 2 was 50 mg/d. Primary. Nonfatal and fatal (total) stroke. Secondary. Cardiovascular and coronary morbidity and mortality, all-cause mortality, and quality of life measures. Average follow-up was 4.5 years. The 5-year average systolic blood pressure was 155 mm Hg for the placebo group and 143 mm Hg for the active treatment group, and the 5-year average diastolic blood pressure was 72 and 68 mm Hg, respectively. The 5-year incidence of total stroke was 5.2 per 100 participants for active treatment and 8.2 per 100 for placebo. The relative risk by proportional hazards regression analysis was 0.64 (P = .0003). For the secondary end point of clinical nonfatal myocardial infarction plus coronary death, the relative risk was 0.73. Major cardiovascular events were reduced (relative risk, 0.68). For deaths from all causes, the relative risk was 0.87. In persons aged 60 years and over with isolated systolic hypertension, antihypertensive stepped-care drug treatment with low-dose chlorthalidone as step 1 medication reduced the incidence of total stroke by 36%, with 5-year absolute benefit of 30 events per 1000 participants. Major cardiovascular events were reduced, with 5-year absolute benefit of 55 events per 1000.