Although cardiovascular disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality after renal transplantation, its pathogenesis and treatment are poorly understood. We conducted separate analyses of risk factors for ischemic heart disease, cerebral, and peripheral vascular disease after 706 renal transplants, all of which functioned for at least 6 months. We used Cox proportional hazards analysis to examine the effects of multiple pretransplant and posttransplant risk factors and included time-dependent variables measured at 3, 6, and 12 months, and annually to last follow-up at 7.0 +/- 4.2 yr. The independent relative risk (RR) of diabetes was 3.25 for ischemic heart disease, 3.21 for cerebral vascular disease, and 28.18 peripheral vascular disease (P < 0.05). The RR of each acute rejection episode was 1.40 for ischemic heart disease and 1.24 for cerebral vascular disease. Among serum lipid levels, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was the best predictor of ischemic heart disease (RR = 0.80 for each 10 mg/dL). Posttransplant ischemic heart disease was strongly predictive of cerebral (5.80) and peripheral vascular disease (5.22), whereas ischemic heart disease was predicted by posttransplant cerebral (8.25) and peripheral vascular disease (4.58). Other risk factors for vascular disease included age, gender, cigarette smoking, pretransplant splenectomy, and serum albumin. Hypertension and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol had no effect, perhaps because of aggressive pharmacologic treatment. Thus, the incidence of cardiovascular disease continues to be high after renal transplantation, and multiple risk factors suggest a number of possible strategies for more effective treatment and prevention.