Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at increased risk of mortality compared with the general population. Evidence suggests that this increased mortality can largely be attributed to increased cardiovascular death. In a retrospective study of an inception cohort of RA patients in Rochester, MN, the contribution of traditional and RA-specific risk factors was investigated to this increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Several traditional cardiovascular risk factors were found to behave differently in RA patients. In addition, their associations with cardiovascular disease are weaker in RA patients as increased inflammation associated with RA also appears to contribute substantially to the increased cardiovascular mortality. Furthermore, the impact of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and biologicals on cardiovascular disease in RA patients is unclear. Cardiovascular risk scores for the general population may underestimate the risk for RA patients. Together with other studies that have demonstrated similar associations between RA and cardiovascular mortality, these data suggest that optimal control of cardiovascular risk factors is important, but not sufficient in RA patients. RA-specific cardiovascular risk prediction tools are needed, as well as clinical trials to assess the impact of therapies and tight control of inflammation in RA patients on cardiovascular outcomes and mortality.