CHF afflicts 15 million persons worldwide despite advances made in its diagnosis and treatment. A thorough physical examination and basic, noninvasive evaluation are essential for establishing the diagnosis of heart failure and for designing an optimal, individualized treatment regimen. Although digitalis and diuretics continue to be used commonly for the treatment of CHF of all severities, the use of vasodilators and ACE inhibitors has increased dramatically, as they are used more widely and earlier in the course of the illness. Because the RAA system contributes significantly to the altered cardiovascular hemodynamics and symptomatology characteristic of heart failure, the ACE inhibitors provide a rational approach to therapy for many patients. Results of controlled clinical trials have shown that selected vasodilators and ACE inhibitors can improve survival in patients with CHF and that patients receiving ACE inhibitors show sustained improvement in clinical class, exercise tolerance, and hemodynamics. Thus the therapeutic spectrum available to the clinician dealing with patients with CHF has broadened substantively over the past decade.