Chronic renal disease is generally appreciated as a major and rapidly growing health problem. In the United States alone, as many as 19.5 million people may have markers of early renal disease, and more than 660,000 people are expected to require renal replacement therapy by the year 2010. By contrast, the presence and pathological role of renal disease in patients with cardiovascular disease are somewhat underrecognized. Evidence now shows that even minor impairments in renal function, as indicated by measures including glomerular filtration rate and microalbuminuria, are common in cardiovascular disease states and predictive of cardiovascular events. Indeed, microalbuminuria may be a marker of systemic vascular disease rather than kidney dysfunction alone. In patients with hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, acute coronary syndromes, and stroke, markers of renal disease have proved to be at least as predictive of morbidity and mortality as conventional risk factors. Yet, chart reviews in a variety of clinical settings reflect poor recognition and management of renal disease in at-risk patients. Models for renal protection are based on the control of risk factors, particularly blood pressure, that are associated with renal and cardiovascular outcomes. Screening protocols for markers of renal disease should recognize the potential inaccuracy of serum creatinine concentrations and the preferability of glomerular filtration rate estimates that take age and gender into account. Pilot programs for screening high-risk populations have shown efficacy in detecting renal disease.