1. It has been argued that all major risk factors for cardiovascular disease have been identified. Yet, epidemiological studies undertaken to identify risk factors have largely focused on populations in developed nations or on the urban or relatively affluent rural populations of developing countries. Poor rural populations are seldom studied. 2. Somewhat different risk factors may operate in poor rural populations. Evidence for this is provided by the finding that, in disadvantaged rural India, the prevalence of hypertension is greater than would be expected based on established risk factors in these populations. One risk factor to be considered is a poor intrauterine environment. 3. In animals, maternal macro- and micronutrient malnutrition can lead to reduced nephron endowment. Nephron deficiency, in turn, can render blood pressure salt sensitive. The combination of nephron deficiency and excessive salt intake will predispose to hypertension. 4. Human malnutrition may have similar effects, particularly in regions of the world where malnutrition is endemic and where women are disadvantaged by existing social practices. 5. Moreover, high salt intake is endemic in many parts of Asia, including India. Therefore, we propose that maternal malnutrition (leading to reduced nephron endowment), when combined with excessive salt intake postnatally, will account, at least in part, for the unexpectedly high prevalence of hypertension in disadvantaged rural communities in India and elsewhere.