Individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus have increased cardiovascular disease risk compared with those without diabetes. Treatment of the residual risk, other than blood pressure and LDL-cholesterol control, remains important as the rate of diabetes increases worldwide. The accelerated atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease in diabetes is likely to be multifactorial and therefore several therapeutic approaches can be considered. Results of mechanistic studies done in vitro and in vivo--animals and people--can provide important insights with the potential to improve clinical management decisions and outcomes. In this Review, we focus on three areas in which pathophysiological considerations could be particularly informative--ie, the roles of hyperglycaemia, diabetic dyslipidaemia (other than the control of LDL-cholesterol concentrations), and inflammation (including that in adipose tissue) in the acceleration of vascular injury.