BACKGROUND: Diastolic heart failure (DHF) is characterized by dyspnea due to increased left ventricular (LV) filling pressures during stress. We sought the relationship of exercise-induced increases in B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) to LV filling pressures and parameters of cardiovascular performance in suspected DHF. METHODS: Twenty-six treated hypertensive patients with suspected DHF (exertional dyspnea, LV ejection fraction >50%, and diastolic dysfunction) underwent maximal exercise echocardiography using the Bruce protocol. BNP, transmitral Doppler, and tissue Doppler for systolic (Sa) and early (Ea) and late (Aa) diastolic mitral annular velocities were obtained at rest and peak stress. LV filling pressures were estimated with E/Ea ratios. RESULTS: Resting BNP correlated with resting pulse pressure (r=0.45, P=0.02). Maximal exercise performance (4.6 +/- 2.5min) was limited by dyspnea. Blood pressure increased with exercise (from 143 +/- 19/88 +/- 8 to 191 +/- 22/ 90 +/- 10 mm Hg); 13 patients (50%) had a hypertensive response. Peak exercise BNP correlated with peak transmitral E velocity (r = 0.41, P <.05) and peak heart rate (r = -0.40, P <.05). BNP increased with exercise (from 48 +/- 57 to 74 +/- 97 pg/mL, P =.007), and the increment of BNP with exercise was associated with maximal workload and peak exercise Sa, Ea, and Aa (P <.01 for all). Filling pressures, approximated by lateral E/Ea ratio, increased with exercise (7.7 +/- 2.0 to 10.0 +/- 4.8, P <.01). BNP was higher in patients with possibly elevated filling pressures at peak exercise (E/Ea >10) compared to those with normal pressures (123 +/- 124 vs 45 +/- 71 pg/mL, P =.027). CONCLUSIONS: Augmentation of BNP with exercise in hypertensive patients with suspected DHF is associated with better exercise capacity, LV systolic and diastolic function, and left atrial function. Peak exercise BNP levels may identify exercise-induced elevation of filling pressures in DHF.