In the Type 1 diabetes population, coronary heart disease (CHD) and lower-extremity arterial disease (LEAD) are the two common macrovascular complications leading to early mortality and morbidity. However, it is not clear if these two complications share the same risk factors. The Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications (EDC) Study prospectively examined and compared the risk factors for LEAD and CHD (including CHD morbidity and mortality). EDC subjects (332 men and 325 women), all diagnosed at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh between 1950 and 1980, were first examined at baseline (1986-1988), and then biennially, for diabetes complications and their risk factors. Data used in the current analysis were from the first 6 years of follow-up, 98% provided at least some follow-up data for these analyses. CHD was defined as the presence of angina (diagnosed by the EDC examining physician) or a history of confirmed myocardial infarction or CHD death. An ankle-to-arm ratio of less than 0.9 at rest was considered to be evidence of LEAD. Among 635 subjects without CHD at baseline, 57 developed CHD (1.69/100 person-years), and among 579 without LEAD at baseline, 70 developed LEAD (2.31/100 person-years). CHD incidence rate was slightly higher in males, while LEAD incidence rate was slightly higher in females. Compared to non-incident cases, subjects who developed either complication were older, had a longer diabetes duration, higher LDL and total cholesterol, and were more likely to be hypertensive. In multivariate analyses, hypertension, low HDL cholesterol level, high white cell count, depression, and nephropathy were the independent risk factors for CHD (including morbidity and mortality). For LEAD, higher HbA1 level, higher LDL cholesterol level and smoking were the important contributing factors. In conclusion, the risk factor patterns differ between the two vascular complications. Glycemic control does not predict CHD overall but does predict LEAD, while hypertension and inflammatory markers are more closely related to CHD than to LEAD.