This population-based, cross-sectional analysis targeted all veterans with coronary heart disease (CHD) who were active patients in primary care or cardiology clinics in the Veterans Health Administration Northwest Network from July 1998 to June 1999. We report guideline compliance rates, including whether low-density lipoprotein (LDL) was measured, and if measured, whether the LDL was < or=100 mg/dl. In addition, we utilized multivariate logistic regression to determine patient characteristics associated with LDL measurements and levels. Of 13,891 active patients with CHD, 5,552 (40.0%) did not have a current LDL measurement. Of those with LDL measurements, 39.1% were at the LDL goal of < or =100 mg/dl, whereas 26.5% had LDL > or =130 mg/dl. Male gender, younger age, history of angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting, current hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and angina pectoris were associated with increased likelihood of LDL measurement. Older age and current diabetes and angina were associated with increased likelihood of LDL being < or =100 mg/dl, if measured. Although these rates of guideline adherence in the CHD population compare well to previously published results, they continue to be unacceptably low for optimal clinical outcomes. Attention to both LDL measurement and treatment (if elevated) is warranted.