In the 30 years since the identification of the natriuretic peptides, their involvement in regulating fluid and blood pressure has become firmly established. Data indicating a role for these hormones in lifestyle-related metabolic and cardiovascular disorders have also accumulated over the past decade. Dysregulation of the natriuretic peptide system has been associated with obesity, glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and essential hypertension. Moreover, the natriuretic peptides have been implicated in the protection against atherosclerosis, thrombosis, and myocardial ischaemia. All these conditions can coexist and potentially lead to heart failure, a syndrome associated with a functional natriuretic peptide deficiency despite high circulating concentrations of immunoreactive peptides. Therefore, dysregulation of the natriuretic peptide system, a 'natriuretic handicap', might be an important factor in the initiation and progression of metabolic dysfunction and its accompanying cardiovascular complications. This Review provides a summary of the natriuretic peptide system and its involvement in these cardiometabolic conditions. We propose that these peptides might have an integrating role in lifestyle-related metabolic and cardiovascular disorders.