Various clinical disorders can cause hyperthyroidism, the effects of which vary according to the patient's age, severity of clinical presentation and association with other comorbidities. Hyperthyroidism is associated with increased morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease, although whether the risk of specific cardiovascular complications is related to the etiology of hyperthyroidism is unknown. This article will focus on patients with Graves disease, toxic adenoma and toxic multinodular goiter, and will compare the cardiovascular risks associated with these diseases. Patients with toxic multinodular goiter have a higher cardiovascular risk than do patients with Graves disease, although cardiovascular complications in both groups are differentially influenced by the patient's age and the cause of hyperthyroidism. Atrial fibrillation, atrial enlargement and congestive heart failure are important cardiac complications of hyperthyroidism and are prevalent in patients aged > or = 60 years with toxic multinodular goiter, particularly in those with underlying cardiac disease. An increased risk of stroke is common in patients > 65 years of age with atrial fibrillation. Graves disease is linked with autoimmune complications, such as cardiac valve involvement, pulmonary arterial hypertension and specific cardiomyopathy. Consequently, the etiology of hyperthyroidism must be established to enable correct treatment of the disease and the cardiovascular complications.