A cohort of 427 (171 males, 256 females) elderly Chinese aged 60 years and over whose health status had been defined in a previous survey was reexamined after a 30-month period to determine the occurrence of stroke. Subjects who initially had a history of transient ischemic attacks (TIA) and nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation had a greater than 10-fold increased risk of stroke in the subsequent 30 months. Men, smokers, alcohol drinkers, overweight subjects, and diabetics, also had a relative risk greater than one, but this did not reach statistical significance. Hypertensive subjects did not have an increased risk of stroke. It is concluded that the most important risk factors in the elderly predisposing to stroke in the short-term are a history of TIA and atrial fibrillation. Preventive measures against these two conditions may have a greater short-term impact in the elderly in reducing stroke occurrence than modification of other risk factors. Further studies involving larger numbers are needed to confirm these findings.