The glomerular filtration rate is generally accepted as the best overall measure of kidney function and many scientific organizations recommend the use of equations that estimate this parameter to facilitate the diagnosis, evaluation and management of chronic kidney disease. Large-scale epidemiological studies have shown that a mild to moderate reduction in glomerular filtration rate is not an uncommon condition in the general population, and its prevalence further increases in patients at higher cardiovascular risk. Moreover, a large body of evidence has recently established that even minor renal dysfunction is an independent predictor of adverse cardiovascular prognosis. The excess cardiovascular risk related to renal damage is due in part to a higher prevalence of traditional atherosclerotic risk factors, in part to nontraditional, emerging risk factors peculiar to chronic kidney disease which enhance the atherogenic process at the systemic level. Therapeutic approaches in the presence of renal damage are aimed at providing simultaneous cardiovascular and renal protection. Optimal blood pressure control, as indicated by international guidelines, is of the utmost importance both to slow the progression of renal damage and to prevent cardiovascular events. Better outcomes of renal function can be obtained with inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system in both diabetic and nondiabetic renal disease, although the administration of a combination of antihypertensive drugs will be required in almost every patient to achieve the blood pressure target. Aggressive intervention on associated modifiable cardiovascular risk factors is also advisable in order to optimize the global risk profile of patients with chronic kidney disease.