Low ankle/brachial blood pressure index (ABI) is a marker of generalized atherosclerosis in the elderly, although its association with coronary heart disease (CHD) has not been well established. The purpose of this report is to examine the relation between ABI and the risk of CHD in a sample of elderly men. Findings are based on the ABI that was measured in 2,863 Japanese-American men aged 71 to 93 years at an examination that occurred from 1991 to 1993 in the Honolulu Heart Program. All men were free of total CHD at that time and followed for nonfatal myocardial infarction and death from CHD over a 3- to 6-year period. During follow-up, 186 had a coronary event. Age-adjusted incidence declined significantly from 15.3% in men with an ABI <0.8 to 5.4% in men with an ABI >/=1.0 (p <0.001). The effect of ABI on disease was similar across a variety of risk factor strata, although it seemed strongest in the presence of hypertension and in past and current cigarette smokers. Adjustment for other risk factors failed to diminish the relation between ABI and CHD. We conclude that a low ABI increases the risk of CHD in elderly men. If findings can be extended to other elderly population segments, simple measurement of ABI in an outpatient setting could be an important tool for assessing the risk of CHD in the elderly.