BACKGROUND: Elevated mortality due to cardiovascular disease has been reported for patients with Barrett's esophagus (BE). We compared the prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease in patients with BE, reflux esophagitis (RE), and non-ulcer dyspepsia (NUD) with that of the general population. METHODS: Patients with upper gastrointestinal complaints and BE, RE, or NUD were compared with a matched cohort from the general population using a questionnaire and blood pressure and cholesterol measurements. RESULTS: Hypertension occurred more frequently in patients with BE (odds ratio 5.1, P<0.0001) and RE (odds ratio 3.8, P<0.001), but not in those with NUD. Serum total cholesterol was higher in BE (P=0.02) and borderline in RE (P=0.06) but not in NUD. Mean HDL cholesterol levels, body mass index, and smoking did not differ. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that BE and RE found at diagnostic endoscopy are associated with an increased prevalence of hypertension and a higher total cholesterol level than in the general population. If so, this would explain the increased mortality during the follow-up of BE patients, and it should be taken into account when designing or evaluating follow-up studies of BE.