The hypotensive peptide adrenomedullin (AM) is assumed to act as a factor inhibitory on elevation of blood pressure and on progression of the hypertensive organ damage, and plasma AM levels are elevated in patients with hypertension. The aim of the present study is to explore whether or not a rise in plasma AM levels precedes the development of hypertension. Normotensive local residents without apparent cardiovascular or renal disease (n=177) were divided into low and high AM groups based on the median concentration of AM in plasma (11.9 fmol/ml), and followed up for 3 years for development of hypertension. The incidence of hypertension was higher in the residents with high AM than low AM levels (27.8 vs 11.5%, P<0.01), whereas a similar analysis of plasma levels of atrial or brain natriuretic peptides revealed no such difference. The plasma AM level was found to be a significant parameter for the development of hypertension in a univariate analysis (P<0.01), but not in a multivariate analysis. Meanwhile, the plasma AM level was significantly (P<0.01) correlated with age and body mass index (BMI), two variables independently significant for the development of hypertension. The present findings suggest that an elevation of the plasma AM level associated with aging and increased BMI precedes the development of hypertension in the normotensive subjects.