Objectives. To examine trends in the prevalence and disparities of traditional cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors among the major race/ethnic groups in the USA: non-Hispanic Whites (NHWs), non-Hispanic Blacks (NHBs), and Mexican Americans (MAs). Methods. We used cross-sectional trend analysis in women and men aged 25-84 years participating in the NHANES surveys, years 1988-1994 (n = 14,341) and 1999-2004 (n = 12,360). Results. The prevalence of obesity and hypertension increased significantly in NHW and NHB, both in men and women; NHB had the highest prevalence of obesity and hypertension in each time period. Diabetes prevalence showed a nonsignificant increasing trend in all groups and was higher in MA in both periods. Smoking significantly decreased in NHW men and NHB, the latter with the largest decline although the highest prevalence in each period; no changes were noted in MA, who had the lowest prevalence in both periods. Race/ethnic CVD risk factors disparities widened for obesity and hypercholesterolemia, remained unchanged for diabetes and hypertension, and narrowed for smoking. Conclusions. The increasing prevalence of obesity and hypertension underscores the need for better preventive measures, particularly in the NHB group that exhibits the worst trends. The decline in smoking rates may offset some of these unfavorable trends.