A long-term decline in death rates from cerebrovascular diseases in the United States accelerated in 1969, with a further increase in the rate of decline after 1972. This break in the pattern of the mortality curve for stroke was observed in all 4 major sex-color groups, and affected all age groups in which a significant number of stroke deaths occur. The decline for non-whites was relatively and absolutely greater than for the comparable white sex. If the 1960 rates had persisted in 1975, 87,600 more lives would have been lost to cerebrovascular diseases. Although there are no data documenting a declining prevalence of hypertension in the population, detection, treatment and control of hypertension have improved markedly over recent years. A concomitant decrease in the severity of epidemic respiratory infection may have contributed to the improvement in recorded death rates from stroke. Mortality from all major cardiovascular diseases has demonstrated a parallel downward trend. Continued emphasis on public health efforts to detect and treat hypertension and other known cardiovascular risk factors can be expected to result in further improvement in cardiovascular mortality.