A stepwise bicycle exercise test up to maximum was performed in a random population sample of 793 Swedish men, all aged 54 years. High respiratory rate during exercise characterized those who later suffered myocardial infarction (MI) or sudden coronary death (SD). In addition to high cholesterol, high blood pressure (BP), and smoking, low maximal performance, but not ST changes during exercise, increased the risk of MI + SD also in multivariate analysis. Pulse rate, systolic BP at both submaximal and maximal work load were positively correlated with the initial blood pressure level. BP at these work loads was also positively correlated with subsequent BP increase.