Elevated blood pressure in midlife contributes significantly to the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, patterns of blood pressure increase may differ among individuals and may result in differential risk. Our goal was to examine the contribution of longitudinal patterns of blood pressure change to incidence of heart failure, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease mortality. Latent class growth models were used to identify patterns of change in blood pressure across 4 clinical examinations (1987-1998) among 9845 Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) cohort participants (mean age, 53.7 [SD 5.7] years). Patterns of change in systolic blood pressure included slowly and steeply increasing, a decreasing and a sustained elevated blood pressure. Changes in diastolic and mid-blood pressure (systolic+diastolic) were less pronounced. The association of blood pressure pattern group membership with incidence of clinical outcomes was examined in follow-up from the fourth clinical examination (1996-1998) to December 31, 2011, using Poisson regression models adjusted for demographic and metabolic characteristics, and hypertension medication use. A gradient of rates of all events was observed across the identified patterns. Associations were attenuated after adjustment for covariates. Cumulative systolic blood pressure load, rather than the temporal pattern of change in systolic blood pressure itself, plays a role in determining the risk of cardiovascular disease, in particular, of heart failure and cardiovascular disease mortality, independent of blood pressure level measured at one point in time.