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Since the excess mortality rate associated with an ankle-brachial blood-pressure index (ABPI) less than 0.9 was only partly explained by an excess cardiovascular mortality, we believe that leg artery disease should not only be regarded as a marker of generalised arteriosclerosis but also as a sign associated with an increased risk of premature death.439 men who were part of a prospective population study in Malmo, Sweden, were, at 68 years of age, invited to a health examination including, ABPI, carotid-artery ultrasonography, and 24 h ambulatory electrocardiographic monitoring. Cause-specific mortality and incidence of myocardial infarction (MI) during 8 years of follow-up was compared in men with and without signs of arteriosclerotic disease. Of 60 men with an ABPI <0.9, 20 (33%) had angina pectoris or previous MI. Another 11 (18%) had silent ST-segment depression (>= 1 mm); 3 (5%) had a history of stroke; and 17 (28%) had symptom-free carotid stenosis (>30% reduction of the cross-sectional diameter). Total mortality rate in men with no signs of arteriosclerotic disease was 19.6 per 1000 person-years and cardiac event rate (fatal and non-fatal MI and death from chronic ischaemic heart disease was 8.6 per 1000 person-years).Leg artery disease, carotid stenosis, and ischaemic heart disease were in a univariate analysis all associated with an increased cardiac event rate and an increased total mortality rate.In a multivariate analysis an ABPI less than 0.9 was associated with a 2.4 times higher total mortality (95% CI 1.5-3.9) and a 2.0 times higher cardiac event rate (1.1-3.9). Carotid stenosis and ischaemic heart disease contributed to the risk for MI (RR 2.1; 95% CI 1.2-3.8; and 2.1; 1.2-3.9, respectively), whereas no independent association with total mortality was found.