Chronic renal ischemia caused by atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis (RAS) is gaining recognition as a potentially important risk factor for cardiovascular (CV) morbidity and mortality. The etiology of increased risk of CV events is multifaceted and includes direct physiologic changes that increase risk as well as intermediate clinical effects that are associated with worse outcome. Physiologic changes associated with increased CV risk in patients with RAS include increased production of fibrogenic and vasoactive peptides such as renin, angiotensin, endothelin, and catecholamines, as well as endothelial cell dysfunction. Clinical intermediate conditions associated with higher incidences of CV events seen in patients with renal ischemia include hypertension, systemic atherosclerosis, chronic renal failure, and left ventricular hypertrophy and dysfunction. More thorough understanding of the myriad physiologic changes seen in patients with RAS will likely improve patient selection for renal artery revascularization. Clinical trials should examine a full range of CV and renal outcomes, not just blood pressure, to adequately assess the merits of revascularization.