Abstract Background The prevalence of hypertension is increasing in much of the South Asian region, including Nepal. This paper reports the prevalence and risk factors of hypertension and pre-hypertension among adult women in a rural community of Nepal. Methods Cross-sectional data on socioeconomic status (SES), lifestyle factors and blood pressure (BP) were collected from a cohort of 15,934 women in rural Nepal in 2006–08. Among a subsample (n = 1679), anthropometry and biomarkers of cardiovascular risk were measured. Results The mean age of women was 34.2 years (range 16.4-71.2 years). More than three percent (3.3%) had hypertension and 14.4% had pre-hypertension. In an adjusted analysis, lower SES, especially lower household farm assets and storage of food for long term consumption, was associated with increased odds of hypertension (OR = 1.14 for mid-level SES and OR = 1.40 for low SES; p for trend < 0.01). Smoking, alcohol use and not working outside the home were also associated with higher risk. In a subsample, both systolic BP (SBP) and diastolic BP (DBP) were positively associated with high triglycerides (SBP β = 4.1 mm Hg; DBP β =3.6 mm Hg), high HbA1c (SBP β = 14.0; DBP β = 9.2), raised fasting glucose (SBP β = 10.0; DBP β = 6.9), high BMI (SBP β = 6.7; DBP β = 5.1) and high waist circumference (SBP β = 6.2; DBP β = 5.3) after adjusting for potential confounders (p for all <0.01). Conclusions Although the prevalence of hypertension was low in this cohort, it was more prevalent among the poorer women and was strongly associated with other cardiovascular risks. These associations at a relatively young age may confer greater risk for cardiovascular disease among women in later life, indicating the need for interventions to reduce the progression from pre-hypertension to hypertension.