OBJECTIVE: 1) To determine whether African-American physicians, compared to caucasian physicians, were at increased risk to develop hypertension; and 2) to determine whether physicians' knowledge of cardiovascular risk factors influenced their pattern of exercise. DESIGN: A mailed survey of members of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Medical Association (NMA) was completed to assess health status and plans for retirement. RESULTS: High-normal blood pressure was defined as systolic blood pressure of 85-89 mmHg. Mild (stage-1) hypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure of 140-159 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure of 90-99 mmHg. Gender (male), age, and body mass index (BMI) were significantly correlated with elevated levels of selected blood pressure measures. Using regression analysis to control for gender, age, and BMI, ethnicity was identified as a fourth factor accounting for elevated blood pressure. NMA physicians had 3.25 times the risk of having systolic blood pressure in the mild (stage-1) hypertension range, 5.78 times the risk for blood pressure in the high-normal diastolic hypertension range, and 5.19 times the risk for blood pressure in the mild (stage-1) diastolic hypertension range. Medical specialty and type of psychological support were not significant predictors of elevated blood pressure. CONCLUSION: These data suggest that African-American physicians may be at an increased risk to develop abnormal blood pressure, compared to caucasian physicians, potentially affecting the number of physicians available to minority communities.