The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between pulse pressure (PP) and the occurrence of heart failure (HF) in older persons with isolated systolic hypertension. Data from a prospective, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial were analyzed. A total of 4736 persons aged > or = 60 years with systolic blood pressure (SBP) between 160 and 219 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) < 90 mm Hg who participated in the Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program (SHEP) were studied. The main outcome measures were fatal and nonfatal HF. During 4.5 years average follow-up, fatal or nonfatal HF occurred in 160 of 4736 patients. The SBP, PP, and mean arterial pressure (MAP) were strong predictors of the development of HF (P < .0002). Cox proportional hazards regression using time-dependent covariates and controlling for MAP indicated that HF was inversely related to DBP (P = 0.002) and was directly related to pulse pressure (P = 0.002). Data were similar when patients who developed myocardial infarction during follow up were excluded. These data indicate that, in older persons with isolated systolic hypertension, high pulse pressure is associated with increased risk of heart failure independently of MAP and of the occurrence of acute myocardial infarction during follow-up.