The hypothesis that fibrinogen is closely related to cardiovascular risk has been strengthened through the results of various lines of research, which this review will aim to unravel. Several prospective epidemiological studies convincingly show elevated fibrinogen to represent a major, independent cardiovascular risk factor. Cross-sectional studies strongly associate fibrinogen and conventional cardiovascular risk factors. Clinical cohort studies demonstrate that increased fibrinogen is also a risk factor for the sequelae of cardiovascular disease. Our knowledge about the determinants of the variable plasma level of fibrinogen in health and disease is incomplete. Understanding of the mechanisms that might be involved in the atherothrombogenic action of fibrinogen is also fragmentary. Fibrinogen strongly affects blood coagulation, blood rheology and platelet aggregation. In addition, it has direct effects on the vascular wall and is a prominent acute phase reactant. All of these phenomena might constitute pathophysiological mechanisms involved in the association between fibrinogen and cardiovascular events. Their relative importance is unclear at present. Even though many crucial questions await conclusive answers, little doubt exists that fibrinogen represents a major, independent risk factor.