Diabetes mellitus has been referred to as a vascular disease because of its effect on the vascular endothelial wall. In recent years, research has identified specific effects of hyperglycemia and insulin resistance on the vasculature of the diabetic patient. Atherosclerosis is known to develop earlier in the diabetic patient and is more aggressive due to the metabolic effects of hyperglycemia and insulin resistance. The results of many large, randomized, prospective trials have provided practice changes in the management of the patient with diabetes. Trials such as the Framingham Study identified risk factors associated with atherosclerosis. Additional studies, such as the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial and the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study, provided information about risk factors for diabetes and contributed to treatment recommendations for the person with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Results of these and many other trials continue to change the recommendations for the person with diabetes to reduce mortality and prevent coronary heart disease, blindness, renal failure, and amputation. This paper will identify the effects of diabetes on the vascular system and outline best practice recommendations on the basis of clinical trials.
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