Cardiovascular pathologies are still the primary cause of death worldwide. The molecular mechanisms behind these pathologies have not been fully elucidated. Unravelling them will bring us closer to therapeutic strategies to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease. One of the major transcription factors that has been linked to both cardiovascular health and disease is NF-κB (nuclear factor κB). The NF-κB family controls multiple processes, including immunity, inflammation, cell survival, differentiation and proliferation, and regulates cellular responses to stress, hypoxia, stretch and ischaemia. It is therefore not surprising that NF-κB has been shown to influence numerous cardiovascular diseases including atherosclerosis, myocardial ischaemia/reperfusion injury, ischaemic preconditioning, vein graft disease, cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure. The function of NF-κB is largely dictated by the genes that it targets for transcription and varies according to stimulus and cell type. Thus NF-κB has divergent functions and can protect cardiovascular tissues from injury or contribute to pathogenesis depending on the cellular and physiological context. The present review will focus on recent studies on the function of NF-κB in the cardiovascular system.