Mortality statistics represent important endpoints in epidemiological studies. The diagnostic validity of cerebral stroke and ischemic heart disease recorded as the underlying cause of death in Norwegian mortality statistics was assessed by using mortality data of participants in the Bergen Clinical Blood Pressure Study in Norway and autopsy records from the Gade Institute in Bergen. In the 41 years of the study (1965-2005) 4,387 subjects had died and 1,140 (26%) had undergone a post mortem examination; 548 (12%) died from cerebral stroke and 1,120 (24%) from ischemic heart disease according to the mortality statistics, compared to 113 (10%) strokes and 323 (28%) coronary events registered in the autopsy records. The sensitivity and positive predictive value of fatal cerebral strokes in the mortality statistics were 0.75, 95% confidence interval (CI) [0.66, 0.83] and 0.86 [0.77, 0.92], respectively, whereas those of coronary deaths were 0.87 [0.84, 0.91] and 0.85 [0.81, 0.89] respectively. Cohen's Kappa coefficients were 0.78 [0.72, 0.84] for stroke and 0.80 [0.76, 0.84] for coronary deaths. In addition to female gender and increasing age at death, cerebral stroke was a negative predictor of an autopsy being carried out (odds ratio (OR) 0.69, 95% CI [0.54, 0.87]), whereas death from coronary heart disease was not (OR 1.14, 95% CI [0.97, 1,33]), both adjusted for gender and age at death. There was substantial agreement between mortality statistics and autopsy findings for both fatal strokes and coronary deaths. Selection for post mortem examinations was associated with age, gender and cause of death.