Over the past decade or more, the prevalence of traditional risk factors for atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases has been increasing in the major populous countries of the developing world, including China and India, with consequent increases in the rates of coronary and cerebrovascular events. Indeed, by 2020, cardiovascular diseases are predicted to be the major causes of morbidity and mortality in most developing nations around the world. Techniques for the early detection of arterial damage have provided important insights into disease patterns and pathogenesis and especially the effects of progressive urbanization on cardiovascular risk in these populations. Furthermore, certain other diseases affecting the cardiovascular system remain prevalent and important causes of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in developing countries, including the cardiac effects of rheumatic heart disease and the vascular effects of malaria. Imaging and functional studies of early cardiovascular changes in those disease processes have also recently been published by various groups, allowing consideration of screening and early treatment opportunities. In this report, the authors review the prevalences and patterns of major cardiovascular diseases in the developing world, as well as potential opportunities provided by early disease detection.