OBJECTIVE--To determine whether postmenopausal women with cardiological syndrome X (chest pain and abnormal exercise electrocardiogram despite normal coronary angiography) exhibit disturbances in the full range of proposed components of the putative "insulin resistance syndrome". PATIENTS AND METHODS--20 postmenopausal women with syndrome X and 20 healthy controls each underwent measurement of insulin resistance (by minimal model analysis of the intravenous glucose tolerance test), lipid, lipoprotein, and apolipoprotein concentrations, a range of haemostatic variables, serum uric acid concentration, and centrality of body fat distribution (by dual energy x ray absorptiometry). RESULTS--Women with syndrome X had higher fasting triglyceride concentrations than controls (median: 1.60 v 1.02 mmol/l, P < 0.05). Concentrations of high density lipoprotein cholesterol were lower (1.33 v 1.61 mmol/l, P < 0.05) as were those of the high density lipoprotein apolipoproteins AI and AII. Insulin and C peptide responses to the intravenous glucose tolerance test were higher (27.6 v 19.8 microU/ml/min, P < 0.01; 101 v 72 pmol/ml/min, P < 0.05, respectively), and insulin sensitivity was lower (1.89 v 3.09 min/microU/ml, P < 0.05). There were, however, no significant differences between other proposed components of the insulin resistance syndrome (blood pressure, glucose tolerance, proportion of central body fat, serum uric acid concentration, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 activity). Antithrombin III activity was higher in women with syndrome X (121 v 113%, P < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS--Women with syndrome X tend to be insulin resistant and have lipid and lipoprotein abnormalities, but do not exhibit all characteristics of the insulin resistance syndrome. Such variation in correlated risk factors is consistent with underlying heterogeneity in the insulin resistance syndrome and cardiological syndrome X.