The NHLBI Family Heart Study is a multicenter, population-based study of genetic and nongenetic determinants of coronary heart disease (CHD), atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular risk factors. In phase I, 2,000 randomly selected participants and 2,000 with family histories of CHD were identified among 14,592 middle-aged participants in epidemiologic studies. Medical histories from these individuals, their parents, and their siblings were used to calculate family risk scores that compared the number of reported and validated CHD events with the number expected based on the size, sex, and age of family members. A total of 657 families with the highest risk scores and early-onset CHD and 588 randomly sampled families had clinic examinations that included electrocardiograms, carotid artery ultrasound scans, spirometry, measurements of body size, blood pressure, lipids, lipoproteins, hemostatic factors, insulin, glucose, and routine chemistries. Additional biochemical and genetic studies are being performed on selected participants. Serum, plasma, lymphocytes, red cells, and DNA are stored for future studies, including genotyping of candidate genes and anonymous markers. Contributions of genes, shared and individual environments, and behaviors to variations in risk factors, preclinical atherosclerosis, and CHD will be estimated. Linkage studies, including the quantitative trait loci approach, are planned.