Despite the fact that it is known that hypertension may be associated to early atherosclerosis manifestations, few data are to date available on the relationship between early carotid abnormalities and left ventricular diastolic dysfunction. To address this issue, 142 hypertensive patients (64 females and 78 males) younger than 55 years, at the first diagnosis of mild-to-moderate essential hypertension (WHO/ISH criteria), were selected from a database consisting of 3541 subjects referred to ultrasound cardiovascular laboratory in the last 5 years. Carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) was detected by high-resolution vascular ultrasound and left ventricular structure and function by the use of Doppler echocardiography. According to carotid IMT values, all patients were subgrouped into two groups consisting of 89 (62.6%) pts with IMT > or = 1 mm (A) and 53 (37.4%) pts with IMT < 1 mm (B). Our results show that isovolumic relaxation time (IVRT), deceleration time of E velocity (EDT) and left ventricular relative wall thickness (LV-RWT) were significantly (P < 0.05) higher in group A (IVRT 112 +/- 8.9 ms; EDT 288 +/- 21.8 ms; LV-RWT 0.40 +/- 0.08) than in group B (IVRT 92.3 +/- 4.6 ms; EDT 203.3 +/- 27.01 ms; LV- RWT 0.37 +/- 0.06). Moreover, the prevalence of left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) was significantly (P < 0.01) higher in group A (30/89; 33.7%) than in group B (8/53; 15%). A positive correlation (P < 0.001) between IMT, EDT and IVRT was found only in hypertensives without LVH. These results are consistent with the indication that IMT evaluation has to be recommended both in hypertensive patients with LVH and in those without LVH, but with left ventricular diastolic dysfunction. This approach might improve the prognostic stratification of hypertensive subjects and it might be suitable to recognize the subset of patients at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease or events early.