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Macrovascular Diabetes Complications - Topic Overview

Macrovascular diabetes complications are diseases and conditions of the large blood vessels caused by diabetes. These complications can occur in blood vessels in any part of the body.

Factors that can contribute to macrovascular complications are high blood sugar, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, and abnormalities in blood clotting.

Doctors do not understand what causes some people to develop diabetes complications while others do not. Some people may have tissue and unidentified factors that are resistant to damage. Lifestyle and inherited factors may also affect the risk for complications. For example, if you smoke, you are at higher risk for heart and blood vessel disease than someone who does not smoke.

Macrovascular diabetes complications include heart disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.

Heart disease

People with diabetes are at risk for heart attack and other heart problems.

If you have diabetic neuropathy, especially if it affects the internal organs (autonomic neuropathy), you may not have heart-related symptoms or may have symptoms that are not typical of heart problems. As a result, you may not seek medical help early enough to prevent serious problems or even death. Be sure to seek care very early, even if your symptoms are not serious and even if you think your symptoms are not related to your heart.


People who have diabetes are more likely to have a stroke than people who do not have diabetes. Plaque buildup and clot formation cause blockage in the blood vessels leading to the brain. People with diabetes often have high blood pressure, which can cause abnormalities in the small blood vessels of the brain and lead to stroke.

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