Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and autoimmune diseases (ADs) are the first and third highest causes of death in the USA, respectively. Men have an increased incidence of the majority of CVDs, including atherosclerosis, myocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy and heart failure. By contrast, nearly 80% of all ADs occur in women. However, in one category of ADs, rheumatic diseases, CVD is the main cause of death. Factors that link rheumatic ADs to CVD are inflammation and the presence of autoantibodies. In this review we will examine recent findings regarding sex differences in the immunopathogenesis of CVD and ADs, explore possible reasons for the increased occurrence of CVD within rheumatic ADs and discuss whether autoantibodies, including rheumatoid factor, could be involved in disease pathogenesis.