This report evaluates the relationships of hemodynamic reactivity and determinants of myocardial oxygen demand to myocardial ischemia during mental stress in coronary artery disease patients. Thirty-nine patients and 12 controls were studied by radionuclide ventriculography during three mental tasks (arithmetic, Stroop task, and simulated public speaking). Patients were subdivided into three groups based on the severity of ischemic wall motion responses to the mental stressors. Results revealed that systolic blood pressure (SBP) levels during the mental tasks and SBP reactivity (increases) to stress were highest for the severely ischemic group, lowest for controls, with the mild-moderate ischemic and nonischemic patients in between. Severely ischemic patients started out with lower double product (heart rate x SBP) levels, and reached higher levels during the Stroop and speech tasks. There were no reliable group effects for diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, or left ventricular end-diastolic volumes. Among severely ischemic patients, the most potent task in eliciting ischemia (the speech) was associated with higher cardiovascular levels and elicited greater heart rate, double product, and ventricular volume responses. The present data indicate a relationship between cardiovascular levels and reactivity and the magnitude of ischemia induced by mental stress.