Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is associated with cognitive deficits long before the onset of stroke or dementia. Recent work has extended these findings and shown that patients with congestive heart failure also exhibit reduced cognitive performance. Brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) is used to help diagnose heart failure, but no study has examined whether BNP predicts cognitive dysfunction in older patients with CVD. BNP values and performance on the Dementia Rating Scale were assessed in 56 older adults with documented CVD. Forty-eight percent of the participants were women, and their average age was 70 +/- 8 years. All participants had Mini-Mental State Examination scores greater than the cutoff for dementia and no histories of neurologic or severe psychiatric disorders. The average BNP level was 122 +/- 202 pg/ml. Hierarchical regression analyses showed that log-transformed BNP levels predicted Dementia Rating Scale total score after adjusting for possible demographic and medical confounders (DeltaR2 = 0.09, F[1, 44] = 6.14, p = 0.017). Partial correlation analysis adjusting for these possible confounders showed a particularly strong relation to the conceptualization subtest (r = -0.44, p = 0.002), a measure of verbal and nonverbal abstraction abilities. In conclusion, the results of the present study provide the first evidence for an independent relation between BNP and cognitive dysfunction in older adults with CVD.