We have established a research project in primary health care in Crete with the aim of surveying the cardiovascular risk profile of a defined 'low-risk' population. The study population comprised all men and women aged 15-79 years in the village of Spili (n = 445); the overall attendance rate was 77% (greater than or equal to 82% in those aged 45 years and above). In this cross-sectional study we found a high (44%) prevalence of smoking in men aged 45-64 years as well as a high alcohol intake (48% drank greater than or equal to 210 g of pure alcohol every week). Furthermore, there was a high cholesterol level (6.2 mmol.l-1), and a high prevalence of hypertension and diabetes. Against this background it is somewhat surprising that we did not find any signs of post-myocardial infarction in Spili men aged 63 and under. It is possible that positive factors, i.e. the closely knit social networks, the low unemployment rate, the hard water, and some of the dietary habits, e.g. the high consumption of olive oil, may counter-balance the negative factors mentioned above. It is also possible that the low risk factors in the past explain the low incidence of myocardial infarction today, and that this will change in the years to come.