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We assessed the prevalence of conventional risk factors for ischaemic heart disease in patients with peripheral vascular disease, and the scope for preventative treatment with lipid-lowering therapy in this group, by retrospectively reviewing 299 patients who had undergone peripheral angiography in 1996. A total of 278 patients had severe peripheral vascular disease; 44% were current smokers at the time of their angiogram, and 36% had a history of coronary artery disease (either myocardial infarction, coronary artery bypass surgery, coronary angioplasty or angina). Cholesterol had been measured in 80 (27%) patients, of whom 26 (9%) were receiving treatment for hypercholesterolaemia. Patients with a history of ischaemic heart disease were more likely to have had their cholesterol measured (50% vs. 15%; p < 0.001). Hypertension (defined as systolic > 160 mmHg or diastolic > 90 mmHg) was present in 44%. There was no difference in the distribution of risk factors between those with and those without known ischaemic heart disease. There is a high prevalence of modifiable risk factors for coronary disease in patients with severe peripheral vascular disease. Effective prevention is available for coronary artery disease, but we found low levels of treatment. There is considerable scope for intervention to reduce the risk of coronary disease in such patients.