Abstract Background Arterial diameters enlarge in response to wall thickening, plaques, and many atherosclerotic risk factors. We hypothesized that right common carotid artery (RCCA) diameter would be independently associated with cardiac disease and improve risk discrimination. Methods In a middle-aged, biracial population (baseline n = 11225), we examined associations between 1 standard deviation increments of baseline RCCA diameter with prevalent myocardial infarction (MI) and incident cardiac events (MI or cardiac death) using logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards models, respectively. Areas under the receiver operator characteristic curve (AUC) were used to estimate model discrimination. Results MI was present in 451 (4%) participants at baseline (1987–89), and incident cardiac events occurred among 646 (6%) others through 1999. Adjusting for IMT, RCCA diameter was associated with prevalent MI (female OR = 2.0, 95%CI = 1.61–2.49; male OR = 1.16, 95% CI = 1.04–1.30) and incident cardiac events (female HR = 1.75, 95% CI = 1.51–2.02; male HR = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.15–1.40). Associations were attenuated but persisted after adjustment for risk factors (not including IMT) (prevalent MI: female OR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.40–2.14; male OR = 1.14, 95% CI = 1.02–1.28, and incident cardiac events: female HR = 1.26, 95% CI = 1.08–1.48; male HR = 1.19, 95% CI = 1.08–1.32). After additional adjustment for IMT, diameter was associated with incident cardiac events in women (HR = 1.18, 95% CI = 1.00–1.40) and men (HR = 1.17, 95% CI = 1.06–1.29), and with prevalent MI only in women (OR = 1.73; 95% CI = 1.37–2.17). In women, when adjustment was limited, diameter models had larger AUC than other models. Conclusion RCCA diameter is an important correlate of cardiac events, independent of IMT, but adds little to overall risk discrimination after risk factor adjustment.