Background To investigate the prevalence, screening and knowledge of cardiovascular risk factors (CVRFs) by socio-economic position (SEP) in rural India. Methods An age- and sex-stratified random sample of 4535 adults was recruited from rural Andhra Pradesh and a questionnaire was administered to assess prevalence, screening and knowledge of CVRFs and record recent attempts to modify behaviour. Education, income and occupation were used to measure SEP. Results Lower fruit intake and higher tobacco and alcohol use were found in those with lower SEP. Overweight, physical inactivity, diabetes, hypertension, family history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and previous CVD (men only) were greater in higher SEP participants. Lower SEP participants had less blood pressure, glucose or cholesterol screening and less knowledge of nine CVRFs. Regardless of SEP, participants knowledgeable of the harms of a CVRF were more likely to have attempted to modify behaviour. For example, knowledge of benefits of smoking cessation was associated with an increased odds ratio (OR) for attempting to quit: in educated participants-OR 3.67, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.10-6.42; in participants with no education-OR 3.98, 95% CI 2.27-6.97.Conclusions Some biological CVRFs were worse in higher SEP participants while some behavioural risk factors were worse in lower SEP participants. Lower SEP participants had less CVRF screening and knowledge of CVRFs. Those with knowledge of CVRFs were more likely to make healthy behavioural changes. Our findings suggest equipping rural Indians with knowledge about CVRFs may ameliorate projected future increases in CVD. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association © The Author 2012; all rights reserved.