Cardiovascular disease constitutes an expanding problem in the elderly because of the increasing size of the aged population. Atherosclerosis, hypertension, and diabetes are responsible for the predonderance of cardiovascular disease, which causes 70% of all deaths beyond age 75. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common and most lethal cardiovascular event in both sexes, exacting a large toll in disability and deteriorated quality of life in old age. Unrecognized myocardial infarctions are especially common and are as serious as symptomatic infarctions. beyond age 65, women are as vulnerable to cardiovascular death as men. The predisposing modifiable risk factors for coronary disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and cardiac failure are similar in young and old and in men and women. These include hypertension, dyslipidemia, impaired glucose tolerance, physical indolence, and cigarette smoking. An attenuated risk ratio for some risk factors is offset by a greater incidence of cardiovascular events in advanced age so that the attributable risk and the potential benefit of treatment rise with age. Because the major risk factors predict CHD as efficiently in the elderly as in the young, and the decline in cardiovascular mortality has included the elderly, preventive efforts in the elderly may have substantial potential benefit. At advanced age, total cholesterol levels are considerably higher in women than in men. Some 10 million elderly, two-thirds of whom are women, may require investigation and treatment for elevated lipid levels, as determined by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) guidelines. Because of the preponderance of women in the elderly population, trials of the efficacy of correcting risk factors in general, and lipids in particular, should include women.