Primary diastolic dysfunction or failure is a distinct pathophysiologic entity. It results from increased resistance to ventricular filling, which leads to an inappropriate upward shift of the diastolic pressure-volume relation, particularly during exercise (exercise intolerance). The causes of diastolic failure are inappropriate tachycardia, decreased diastolic compliance and impaired systolic relaxation. Impaired (incomplete or slowed) systolic relaxation must be conceptually distinguished from compensatory prolonged systolic contraction (delayed or retarded relaxation). Optimal therapy will depend on the type of disease, the phase during the course of a given disease and the coexistence and relative contribution of various (de)compensatory processes. Treatment may consist of bradycardic, remodeling and lusitropic drugs.