This two-part article provides an overview of the global burden of atherothrombotic cardiovascular disease. Part I initially discusses the epidemiologic transition which has resulted in a decrease in deaths in childhood due to infections, with a concomitant increase in cardiovascular and other chronic diseases; and then provides estimates of the burden of cardiovascular (CV) diseases with specific focus on the developing countries. Next, we summarize key information on risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and indicate that their importance may have been underestimated. Then, we describe overarching factors influencing variations in CVD by ethnicity and region and the influence of urbanization. Part II of this article describes the burden of CV disease by specific region or ethnic group, the risk factors of importance, and possible strategies for prevention.