The hormonal derivative of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25[OH]2D) or calcitriol, has been implicated in many physiologic processes beyond calcium and phosphorus homeostasis, and likely plays a role in several chronic disease states, in particular, cardiovascular disease. Experimental data suggest that 1,25(OH)2D affects cardiac muscle directly, controls parathyroid hormone secretion, regulates the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, and modulates the immune system. Because of these biologic effects, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with hypertension, several types of vascular diseases, and heart failure. We conducted a MEDLINE search of the English-language literature (1950-2008) to identify studies that examined these relationships; additional citations were obtained from the articles retrieved from the literature search. Treatment with vitamin D lowered blood pressure in patients with hypertension and modified the cytokine profile in patients with heart failure. Measurement of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration usually provides the best assessment of an individual's vitamin D status. Serum levels below 20 ng/ml represent vitamin D deficiency, and levels above 30 ng/ml are considered optimal. Although the observational data linking vitamin D status to cardiovascular disease appear robust, vitamin D supplementation is not recommended as routine treatment for heart disease until definitive prospective, randomized trials can be carried out to assess its effects. However, such supplementation is often appropriate for other reasons and may be beneficial to cardiovascular health in certain patients.