Ischaemic heart disease is a major cause of chronic heart failure in Western societies. Despite some progress in the treatment of heart failure, it is still a disabling disorder with both high mortality and high morbidity. The incidence of chronic heart failure has increased over the past decade, probably as a result of the recent success in the management of patients with acute myocardial infarction. The importance of measures with potential capacity to prevent the development of symptomatic heart failure may be best illustrated by the fact that, among patients with left ventricular dysfunction, the prognosis is much worse in those with symptomatic failure than in those who are asymptomatic. Recently, the efficacy of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors after myocardial infarction has been studied in a number of large placebo-controlled trials. These studies indicate that patients with symptomatic or asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction after an acute myocardial infarction should receive long-term treatment with an ACE inhibitor and that such treatment may improve survival, reduce the incidence of overt heart failure and reduce the risk of reinfarction.