Getting your blood pressure taken isn’t the most fun activity in the world, but now it looks like we have a better reason to get it measured than simply “because we have to.”

Sorry to freak you out, but scientists discovered blood pressure fluctuations in middle age may be a precursor to both heart attacks and strokes.

Research with 61,000 people found that those with normal blood pressure at age 55 had a relatively low lifetime risk for heart disease or stroke, between 22 and 41 percent. But those who’d already had high blood pressure by that age had a higher lifetime risk of between 42 and 69 percent.

Specifically, the researchers predicted that almost three-quarters of men who developed high blood pressure in middle age will have a heart attack, stroke or other such event by age 85, while half of women who have high blood pressure by their early 40s will develop heart disease or an increased risk of stroke later in life.

Norrina Allen, PhD, of Chicago’s Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said the findings highlight the importance of maintaining normal blood pressure throughout middle age and even earlier. “People who maintained a low blood pressure of less than 120 over 80 had the lowest lifetime risk for [heart disease and stroke], and those who stayed above 140 over 90 had the highest,” she explained.

In other words, “The longer people can delay the onset of hypertension, the better off they are.”

More From KZCD-FM