In this study left ventricular diastolic function at rest was evaluated in ten newly diagnosed, non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients by Doppler echocardiography, performed at the onset of disease and after 6 and 12 months of adequate glycaemic control. Glycosylated haemoglobin A1C, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels were assessed at the same time. The control group consisted of ten healthy subjects of matching age and body mass index. The following parameters of left ventricular function were evaluated: ejection fraction (EF), peak velocity of the early (E) and late atrial (A) mitral flow, A/E ratio, duration of the early (Ei) and of the atrial (Ai) filling phase, and heart rate. The diabetic patients had significantly higher total cholesterol and triglyceride levels compared with healthy subjects. These remained elevated throughout the follow-up period, in spite of improved glycaemic control. A significantly shorter duration of Ei (0.15 +/- 0.008 vs 0.18 +/- 0.004, P < 0.01) and a higher value of A (0.51 +/- 0.02 vs 0.39 +/- 0.01, P < 0.001) and A/E (1.06 +/- 0.05 vs 0.73 +/- 0.02, P < 0.001) were found in the diabetic patients before treatment. The parameters did not significantly change after 1 year of adequate glycaemic control. These results indicate a left ventricular filling abnormality which is present in newly diagnosed non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients and does not reverse with improved glycaemic control.