Ethnic variations in prevalence, presentation characteristics, and mortality have been identified in Canadian patients with coronary artery disease. Similar data with respect to heart failure do not exist. A retrospective sequential chart review of South Asians and non-South Asian Whites in Canada hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of congestive heart failure between 1997 and 1999 showed South Asians were significantly younger, of lower body mass index, were more often diabetic, and were less often smokers. In-hospital mortality was not different between groups, although South Asians were more likely to experience ventricular arrhythmias. Despite presenting at a younger age, South Asians had more high-risk features at hospital discharge. Since South Asians are at high risk of developing premature coronary artery disease, a more aggressive approach to prevention strategies in this ethnic group may reduce the subsequent burden of heart failure.