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OBJECTIVE--To examine mortality from ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease in England and Wales by country of birth of the deceased. DESIGN--Standardised mortality ratios were computed by country of birth groups for ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease for 1979-83 and 1970-2 by using the five year age-sex specific rates for England and Wales for 1979-83 as standard. SETTING--England and Wales 1970-2 and 1979-83. RESULTS--In 1979-83 mortality from ischaemic heart disease was highest in men and women born in the Indian subcontinent (standardised mortality ratio 136 and 146 respectively). Young Indian men suffered the greatest excess (313 at ages 20-29). Other groups with raised mortality included Irish, Scottish, and Polish born immigrants. Those born in the Caribbean, the old Commonwealth, west Europe, and the United States had low death rates. In England and Wales mortality from ischaemic heart disease declined by 5% in men and 1% in women between 1970-2 and 1979-83, with greatest percentage declines in immigrants born in the United States, South Africa, the old Commonwealth, the Caribbean, and France. immigrant groups with raised mortality in the earlier period showed little improvement, and mortality from ischaemic heart disease increased among Indians (6% in men and 13% in women). In 1979-83 mortality from cerebrovascular disease was highest in Caribbeans (standardised mortality ratios 176 in men and 210 in women), followed by Africans, Indians, and Irish. Rates were low in west Europeans. Mortality from stroke declined by 28% overall in this period, a rate of decline shared by most groups. Men from the Indian subcontinent showed a decline of only 3%. CONCLUSION--In the 1980s mortality from ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease differed significantly between ethnic groups in England and Wales. In general, ethnic groups that experienced lower mortality from ischaemic heart disease in the 1970s showed the greatest improvement over the following decade.