In selected clinical series, > or = 50% of adults with congestive heart failure (CHF) do not have left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction. Little is known of the prevalence of this phenomenon in population samples. Therefore, clinical examination and echocardiography were used in the second examination of the Strong Heart Study (3,184 men and women, 47 to 81 years old) to identify 95 participants with CHF, 50 of whom had normal LV ejection fraction (EF) (> 54%), 19 of whom had mildly reduced EF (40% to 54%), and 26 of whom had EF < or = 40%. Compared with those with no CHF, participants with CHF and no, mild, or severe decrease in EF had higher creatinine levels (2.34 to 2.85 vs 1.01 mg/dl, p < 0.001) and higher prevalences of diabetes (60% to 70% vs 50%) and hypertension (75% to 96% vs 46%, p < 0.05). Compared with those with no CHF, participants with CHF and normal EF had prolonged deceleration time (233 vs 204 ms, p < 0.05) and a reduced E/A, whereas those with CHF and EF < or = 40% had short deceleration time (158 ms, p < 0.05) and high E/A (1.70, p < 0.001); patients with CHF and normal EF had higher LV mass (98 vs 84 g/m2, p < 0.001) and relative wall thickness (0.37 vs 0.35, p < 0.05) than those without CHF. Patients with CHF with normal EF were, compared with those without CHF or with CHF and EF < or = 40%, disproportionately women (mean 84% vs 63% and 42%, p < 0.001), older (mean 64 vs 60 years and 63 years, respectively, p < 0.01), had higher body mass index (mean 33.1 vs 31.0 and 27.7 kg/m2, p < 0.05), and higher systolic blood pressure (mean 137 vs 130 and 128 mm Hg, both p < 0.05). Thus, in a population-based sample, patients with CHF and normal LV EF were older and overweight, more often women, had renal dysfunction, impaired early diastolic LV relaxation, and concentric LV geometry, whereas patients with CHF and severe LV dysfunction were more often men, had lower body mass index, a restrictive pattern of LV filling, and eccentric LV hypertrophy.