Community studies have demonstrated suboptimal achievement of lipid targets in the management of patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). An effective strategy is required for the application of evidence-based prevention therapy for CHD. The objective of this study was to test coaching as a technique to assist patients in achieving the target cholesterol level of <4.5 mmol/L. Patients with established CHD (n = 245) underwent a stratified randomization by cardiac procedure (coronary artery bypass graft surgery or percutaneous coronary intervention) to receive either the coaching intervention (n = 121) or usual medical care (n = 124). The primary outcome measure was fasting serum total cholesterol (TC), serum triglyceride (TG), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and calculated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) level, measured at 6 months post-randomization. At 6 months, the serum TC and LDL-C levels were significantly lower in the coaching intervention group (n = 107) than the usual care group (n = 112): mean TC (95%CI) 5.00 (4.82-5.17) mmol/L versus 5.54 (5.36-5.72) mmol/L (P <.0001); mean LDL-C (95%CI) 3.11 (2.94-3.29) mmol/L versus 3.57 (3.39-3.75) mmol/L (P <.0004), respectively. Coaching had no impact on TG or on HDL-C levels. Multivariate analysis showed that being coached (P <.001) had an effect of equal magnitude to being prescribed lipid-lowering drug therapy (P <.001). The effectiveness of the coaching intervention is best explained by both adherence to drug therapy and to dietary advice given. Coaching may be an appropriate method to reduce the treatment gap in applying evidence-based medicine to the "real world."