Background: Maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP) is a measure of inspiratory muscle strength. The prognostic importance of MIP for cardiovascular events among elderly community dwelling individuals is unknown. Diminished forced vital capacity (FVC) is a risk factor for cardiovascular events which remains largely unexplained. Methods: MIP was measured at the baseline examination of the Cardiovascular Health Study. Participants had to be free of prevalent congestive heart failure (CHF), myocardial infarction (MI), and stroke. Results: Subjects in the lowest quintile of MIP had a 1.5-fold increased risk of MI (HR 1.48, 95% CI 1.07 to 2.06) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) death (HR 1.54, 95% CI 1.09 to 2.15) after adjustment for nonpulmonary function covariates. There was a potential inverse relationship with stroke (HR 1.36, 95% CI 0.97 to 1.90), but there was little evidence of an association between MIP and CHF (HR 1.22, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.60). The addition of FVC to models attenuated the HR associated with MIP only modestly; similarly, addition of MIP attenuated the HR associated with FVC only modestly. Conclusions: A reduced MIP is an independent risk factor for MI and CVD death, and a suggestion of an increased risk for stroke. This association with MIP appeared to be mediated through mechanisms other than inflammation.