The knowledge of 28 stroke patients on the nature, consequences, treatment and risk factors of stroke and ischaemic heart disease was examined using a questionnaire and compared with that of 26 patients with ischaemic heart disease and 41 controls without evidence of vascular disease. Information was also collected on the patients' willingness to change their life-style, the information and advice they had received and their desire for more information. It was found that about half of the elderly stroke and heart disease patients had a reasonable knowledge of the condition and its related risk factors. Only eight (14%) patients remembered receiving information and advice in relation to their condition during their hospital stay compared with one (2%) control. There was a significant difference between the number of stroke and heart disease patients who wanted to know more about their condition compared with the control group (32 vs 14; p = 0.03). A quarter of the patients and half of the controls knew that fruit and vegetables were good for you and excessive fat and alcohol were less inducive to good health. Most patients with a risk factor were willing to exercise more, stop smoking, cut down on their drinking, or lose weight. These results suggest that elderly hospital patients have a reasonable basic knowledge about vascular diseases, but that a significant number want to know more and would be willing to change their life-style.