CHICAGO (CBS) — If you’re in your 40s or 50s, Northwestern University researchers say it is critical to control your blood pressure.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, the study of more than 61,000 adults found that those whose blood pressure was high in middle age had a 30 percent greater chance of a stroke or a heart attack later in life.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

The study, published in “Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association,” indicates that a measurement of change in blood pressure between the ages of 41 and 55 is a more accurate predictor of future cardiovascular disease than a single blood pressure reading.

Lead study author Norrina Allen, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, said the study offers evidence that it is vital to control patients’ blood pressure starting as early as early as possible, and that keeping blood pressure normal through middle age is vital keep the risk of cardiovascular disease low.

In the study, the 61,585 participants had their baseline blood pressure readings taken when they were 41, then again at 55. The patients were followed until their first heart attack or stroke, their death, or the age of 95.

Men who developed high blood pressure in middle age or earlier had a 70 percent risk of having a heart attack or stroke, compared to a 41 percent risk for those without high blood pressure, according to a news release on the study.

Women with high blood pressure had a 50 percent risk of a heart attack or stroke, while those without high blood pressure had only a 22 percent risk.

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