Discrepancies in reported reference values for left ventricular (LV) dimensions and mass may be due to imaging errors with early echocardiographic methods or effects of subject characteristics and inclusion criteria. To determine whether contemporary echocardiographic methods provide stable normal limits for left ventricular measurements in different populations, M-mode/2-dimensional echocardiography was applied in 176 American Indian participants in the Strong Heart Study and 237 New York City residents who were clinically normal. No consistent difference in any measure of LV size or function existed between populations. Upper normal limits (98th percentile) for LV mass were 96 g/m(2) in women and 116 g/m(2) in men and 3.27 cm/m for LV chamber diameter normalized for height. Thus contemporary M-mode/2D echocardiography provides reference ranges for LV measurements that approximate necropsy measurements and have acceptable stability in apparently normal white, African-American/Caribbean, and American Indian populations.