The natriuretic hormones have been discovered as mediators of the cardiac response to volume overload and mechanical dysfunction. Although there are some physiological differences between atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), it is BNP that has been found to be most useful as a clinical test. BNP is secreted along with an N terminal proBNP cleavage product (NT-proBNP). The similarities between these two tests are far greater than the differences. They are both probably useful in the diagnosis of high-risk patients (e.g. dyspnoeic) and may be useful in monitoring cardiac failure treatment. Although BNP levels in the normal range predict the risk of cardiac events and mortality, there is little evidence to promote their use as a screening test. In such an important condition as cardiac failure we should consider any messages that are likely to be of value, particularly those that are heartfelt.