The metabolic syndrome is a highly prevalent multifaceted clinical entity produced through the interaction of genetic, hormonal, and lifestyle factors. A distinctive constellation of abnormalities precedes and predicts the accelerated development of atherogenesis and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Abnormalities of inflammation and coagulation represent emerging risk contributors associated with obesity and insulin resistance, central components of the metabolic syndrome, which act in concert with traditional abnormalities to increase cardiovascular risk. The initiation and progression of atherosclerosis may have its origins in impaired endothelial function that can be detected at the earliest stages of development of the syndrome. The basic elements of the metabolic syndrome and accelerated phase of atherogenesis are often silent partners that present many years before the onset of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The ability to detect and monitor subclinical vascular disease, as a reflection of the multiple factors that contribute to impair arterial wall integrity, holds potential to further refine cardiovascular risk stratification. Noninvasive assessment of vascular health may also aid the clinical decision-making process by guiding therapeutic interventions to optimize vascular protection in the metabolic syndrome.