The decrease in mortality from ischemic heart disease during the last 25 years may partly reflect improvement in diagnosis and treatment of patients with coronary heart disease. These patients, therefore, are experiencing morbidity and mortality due to other causes. The aim of our study was to describe the incidence and causes of cardiac mortality (CM) and noncardiac mortality (NCM) and to identify predictive factors. A cohort of 14,697 patients with coronary heart disease was merged with the Central Population Registry to identify mortality records from 1990 to 1996. Among the 1,839 deaths, 1,055 (57.4%) were cardiac, 626 (34.0%) were noncardiac, and 158 deaths (8.6%) were due to unknown causes as classified in the International Classification of Diseases-Ninth Edition (ICD). The 3 most significant predictors were age for a 10-year increment (odds ratios 1.75 and 2.25 for CM and NCM, respectively), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (odds ratios 1.67 and 1.71), and current smoking (odds ratios 1.29 and 1.66). A history of cancer was a predictor of NCM, but not of CM, whereas peripheral vascular disease predicted CM but not NCM. As the number of predictive factors increased from none to >or=5, the risk of NCM gradually increased from 1.9% to 15.5%. Similar predictors expose subjects with coronary disease to CM and NCM, but smoking plays a more pronounced role in the prediction of NCM, whereas past myocardial infarction, lower levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and peripheral vascular disease are mainly associated with CM. Because of the similarity of antecedent predictors, treatment of risk factors among patients with coronary heart disease should prove valuable for the prevention of all-cause mortality.