In the second half of this century, morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease has reached epidemic proportions. The major risk factor associated with cardiovascular disease has been found, from various epidemiological studies, to be elevated blood pressure. Therefore, a lot of energy has been expended in prospective therapeutic trials in attempting to detect whether treatment of high blood pressure is beneficial. In severe hypertension, where the risk to the individual is considerable, this benefit has been demonstrated with relative ease. However, it has not yet proven possible to show conclusive benefit of treatment in the mild group of hypertensives, which form the vast majority of patients seen in general practice. A different approach has been advocated where account is taken of other coincidental cardiovascular risk factors; their presence or absence should help the clinician decide whether to treat or not to treat in the individual case.