Treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease in the general population has benefited greatly from the identification of cardiovascular disease risk factors. Given the particularly high risk of cardiovascular disease and total mortality among patients with chronic renal insufficiency (CRI) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD), it is important to assess the role of traditional and nontraditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This review discusses the foundations of risk factor epidemiology and briefly summarizes the evidence regarding cardiovascular risk factors in renal disease. Diabetes and hypertension have a very high prevalence in patients with CRI. Patients with CRI and ESRD also have a higher frequency of cardiac dysfunction and left ventricular hypertrophy, which further increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Finally, patients with renal disease have a higher prevalence of less established risk factors, including low HDL, and high triglycerides, lipoprotein(a), and homocysteine, where prospective studies and clinical trials are needed to provide a scientific basis for reduction of cardiovascular risk among patients with renal disease.