Background In an elderly, community based population we aimed at investigating antihypertensive and lipid lowering medication use in relation to own and familiar cardiovascular morbidity and diabetes mellitus, as well as to lifestyle factors and general health. We also examined levels of blood pressure in untreated and treated residents, to investigate factors correlating with blood pressure control. Methods A health survey carried out in 1997-9 in the county of Hordaland, Norway included a self-administered questionnaire mailed to 4 338 persons born in 1925-7. Drug use the day prior to filling in the questionnaire was reported. A health check-up was carried out, where their systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP and DBP), body mass index (BMI), and serum-cholesterol level were recorded. Results One third of respondents used one or more antihypertensive drugs, while 13% of men and women were treated with a statin. Diabetes mellitus, own or relatives'cardiovascular disease, having quit smoking, physical inactivity, and overweight correlated with antihypertensive treatment. Mean blood pressure was lower in respondents not on treatment. Among those on treatment, 38% of men and 29% of women had reached a target BP-level of lower than 140/90 mm Hg. Own cardiovascular disease and a low BMI correlated with good BP-control. Conclusion One third of 70–74 year old individuals living in the community used one or more antihypertensive drugs. Only around one third of those treated had reached a target BP-level of less than 140/90 mm Hg. Own cardiovascular disease and a low BMI correlated with good BP-control.