We compared the acute effects of caffeine on arterial blood pressure (BP) in 5 hypertension risk groups composed of a total of 182 men. We identified 73 men with optimal BP, 28 with normal BP, 36 with high-normal BP, and 27 with stage 1 hypertension on the basis of resting BP; in addition, we included 18 men with diagnosed hypertension from a hypertension clinic. During caffeine testing, BP was measured after 20 minutes of rest and again at 45 to 60 minutes after the oral administration of caffeine (3.3 mg/kg or a fixed dose of 250 mg for an average dose of 260 mg). Caffeine raised both systolic and diastolic BP (SBP and DBP, respectively; P<0.0001 for both) in all groups. However, an ANCOVA revealed that the strongest response to caffeine was observed among diagnosed men, followed by the stage 1 and high-normal groups and then by the normal and optimal groups (SBP F(4),(175)=5.06, P<0.0001; DBP F(4,175)=3.02, P<0.02). Indeed, diagnosed hypertensive men had a pre-to-postdrug change in BP that was >1.5 times greater than the optimal group. The potential clinical relevance of caffeine-induced BP changes is seen in the BPs that reached the hypertensive range (SBP >/=140 mm Hg or DBP >/=90 mm Hg) after caffeine. During the predrug baseline, 78% of diagnosed hypertensive men and 4% of stage 1 men were hypertensive, whereas no others were hypertensive. After caffeine ingestion, 19% of the high-normal, 15% of the stage 1, and 89% of the diagnosed hypertensive groups fell into the hypertensive range. All subjects from the optimal and normal groups remained normotensive. We conclude that hypertension risk status should take priority in future research regarding pressor effects of dietary intake of caffeine.