Diabetes and atherosclerosis: an epidemiologic view

Diabetes Metab Rev. 1987 Apr;3(2):463-524. doi: 10.1002/dmr.5610030206.


Diabetes is associated with changes in plasma lipids and lipoproteins into atherogenic direction. In IDDM these changes are small or absent if good metabolic control can be maintained. Diabetic nephropathy is, however, associated with the appearance of dyslipoproteinemia. In NIDDM plasma total and VLDL triglyceride levels are elevated, and HDL-cholesterol level is decreased, and this pattern of dyslipoproteinemia does not always respond to improved control of hyperglycemia. Abnormalities of lipoprotein metabolism, not reflected in conventional plasma lipid and lipoprotein level measurements, and glucosylation of lipoproteins and resulting alterations in lipoprotein catabolism may be of importance in the enhanced atherogenesis in diabetes. Both IDDM and NIDDM are associated with an increased frequency of hypertension, but the underlying mechanisms appear to be different. In IDDM hypertension is usually associated with the development of diabetic nephropathy and thus with a long duration of the disease. In NIDDM hypertension is often present already at the time of diagnosis, and also in IGT, the precursor stage of NIDDM, the prevalence of hypertension is already increased. Obesity explains only in part the high prevalence of hypertension in patients with NIDDM. Diabetes is known to be associated with multiple abnormalities in hemostatic factors and, although these abnormalities may contribute importantly to the increased risk of ASVD in diabetic patients, information about their real role is scanty and conflicting. The impact of general major risk factors for ASVD, elevated plasma cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and smoking, on the risk of ASVD appears to be similar in diabetics and nondiabetics. Only a relatively small proportion of the excessive occurrence of ASVD in diabetics can, however, be explained by the effects of diabetes on the levels of general risk factors for ASVD. This proportion mediated through the effects of diabetes on risk factors is larger in female diabetics than in male diabetics. The major proportion of the excess of ASVD in diabetics remains, however, unexplained and must be due to effects of diabetes itself through mechanisms that are incompletely understood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / complications
  • Arteriosclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Humans