Patients with diabetes were compared with nondiabetic control subjects, with respect to the prevalence of silent myocardial ischemia, by means of treadmill exercise testing and coronary angiography. Results of treadmill exercise testing showed ischemic ST depression in 41 of the 132 diabetic patients (mean age 61 +/- 4 years) and in 42 of the 140 nondiabetic control subjects (mean age 60 +/- 8 years) (31% vs 30%, p = NS). Coronary angiography was performed in 36 of 41 diabetic patients and 34 of 42 nondiabetic control subjects with positive results of treadmill exercise tests, who gave their consent. Among "treadmill-positive" subjects, diabetic patients had a prevalence of silent myocardial ischemia that was 2.2 times higher than that in nondiabetic control subjects (p less than 0.05). Diabetic patients who received insulin had a 2.6 times higher prevalence of silent myocardial ischemia than those who did not (p less than 0.05). Similarly diabetic patients with retinopathy has a 2.5 times higher prevalence of silent myocardial ischemia than those without it (p less than 0.05).