Cardiovascular disease (CVD) follows a seasonal pattern in many populations. Broadly defined winter peaks and clusters of all subtypes of CVD after 'cold snaps' are consistently described, with corollary peaks linked to heat waves. Individuals living in milder climates might be more vulnerable to seasonality. Although seasonal variation in CVD is largely driven by predictable changes in weather conditions, a complex interaction between ambient environmental conditions and the individual is evident. Behavioural and physiological responses to seasonal change modulate susceptibility to cardiovascular seasonality. The heterogeneity in environmental conditions and population dynamics across the globe means that a definitive study of this complex phenomenon is unlikely. However, given the size of the problem and a range of possible targets to reduce seasonal provocation of CVD in vulnerable individuals, scope exists for both greater recognition of the problem and application of multifaceted interventions to attenuate its effects. In this Review, we identify the physiological and environmental factors that contribute to seasonality in nearly all forms of CVD, highlight findings from large-scale population studies of this phenomenon across the globe, and describe the potential strategies that might attenuate peaks in cardiovascular events during cold and hot periods of the year.