Rheumatoid patients present clinically with chronic inflammatory immune arthritis but die of the same cardiovascular (CVS) disease as the normal population. Recent studies emphasize the increased frequency and earlier development of CVS involvement in RA. The mechanisms of this accelerated atherosclerosis are the subject of active research. The hypothesis that rheumatoid vasculitis is a major factor has been pursued through studies in primary systemic vasculitis. These reveal diffuse endothelial dysfunction occurring across a spectrum of vasculitis and involving more than one vascular bed. This may relate to cytokines such as TNF alpha that are both prominent in rheumatoid inflammation and important in the upregulation of endothelium in innate immune responses. Endothelial injury or dysfunction is widely accepted as the initial factor in atheroma. Its occurrence in vasculitis leads us to propose a model for RA where this dysfunction is the essential first step on which other factors, ranging from adverse lipid profiles to specific T-cell subsets, may build accelerated atherogenesis related to the rheumatoid inflammation.