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Heart failure (HF) is a major public health issue and hypertension is a major predictor of HF. Observational studies have demonstrated a continuous and graded relationship between ‘normal’ systolic blood pressure (SBP) and cardiovascular disease. However, limited data are available on the relationship between normotensive SBP and the risk of HF.To test the hypothesis that there is a graded relation between SBP and HF risk among subjects with normal SBP, we used data on 18 876 participants who were healthy and were free of HF at baseline. Incident HF cases were ascertained by annual follow-up questionnaires and validated through a review of medical records. Cox proportional hazard model was used to compute multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios with corresponding 95% confidence intervals. Between 1982 and 2008, 1098 cases of HF occurred. There was a 35% increased risk of HF among subjects with SBP 130–139 mmHg compared with people with optimal SBP (<120 mmHg). In addition, there was a linear trend in HF risk across the normal range of SBP.Our findings suggest a linear relationship between normotensive SBP and HF risk. Strategies to prevent HF, such as lifestyle modification, should be emphasized across all blood pressure ranges.