Little is known about patient awareness of nationally recommended blood pressure targets, especially among patients with cardiac disease. To examine this issue, we interviewed 738 patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease to assess their knowledge of their systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels as well as corresponding national targets. We used bivariate and multivariate analyses to determine if any patient demographic or clinical characteristics were associated with blood pressure knowledge. Only 66.1% of patients could recall their own systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels. Only 48.9% of all patients could correctly name targets for these values. Knowledge of target blood pressure levels was particularly poor among patients who were female (odds ratio (OR) 0.69; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.49-0.98), aged > or =60 years (OR 0.70, CI 0.51-0.97), without any college education (OR 0.48, CI 0.35-0.65), without a documented history of hypertension (OR 0.57, CI 0.39-0.84), and with known diabetes (OR 0.46, CI 0.33-0.66). Patients in the highest risk group, according to Joint National Committee guidelines stratification, were no more knowledgeable about their blood pressure levels and targets than lower risk patients. A significant proportion of patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease do not know their own blood pressure levels or targets. Current blood pressure education efforts appear inadequate, particularly for certain patient subgroups in which hypertension is an important modifiable risk factor.