Plasma glucose and insulin responses to an oral glucose challenge and fasting plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentration were compared in 25 normal individuals and 53 patients with high blood pressure. Patients with hypertension were further subdivided into two groups--normal electrocardiogram (EKG) (n = 24) or abnormal EKG (n = 29)--using the Minnesota code criteria. Patients with hypertension and an abnormal EKG had significantly higher plasma glucose and insulin concentrations following oral glucose than did the control population. Furthermore, plasma triglyceride (TG) concentration was higher and high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration lower then normal in hypertensive patients with an abnormal EKG, and the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol was higher in this subgroup. Values for patients with high blood pressure and a normal EKG were intermediate. Insulin-mediated glucose uptake was also measured in a subset of patients with hypertension and either a normal (n = 18) or abnormal (n = 17) EKG. When these two subgroups were compared, those with high blood pressure and an abnormal EKG were significantly more insulin resistant than patients with hypertension and a normal EKG. In addition, they also had higher plasma glucose and insulin responses to oral glucose, higher fasting plasma triglyceride and cholesterol concentrations, and an increase in the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol. Thus, patients with high blood pressure have abnormalities of glucose, insulin, and lipid metabolism when compared to a nonhypertensive control group, and the magnitude of these metabolic defects is significantly greater in patients with high blood pressure who have EKG evidence of coronary heart disease.