The prevalence of diabetes mellitus will likely increase globally from 371 million individuals in 2013 to 552 million individuals in 2030. This epidemic is mainly attributable to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), which represents about 90-95% of all cases. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality among individuals with diabetes mellitus, and >50% of patients will die from a cardiovascular event-especially coronary artery disease, but also stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Classic risk factors such as elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as smoking, are risk factors for adverse cardiovascular events in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and T2DM to a similar degree as they are in healthy individuals. Patients with T1DM develop insulin resistance in the months after diabetes mellitus diagnosis, and patients with T2DM typically develop insulin resistance before hyperglycaemia occurs. Insulin resistance and hyperglycaemia, in turn, further increase the risk of adverse cardiovascular events. This Review discusses the mechanisms by which T1DM and T2DM can lead to cardiovascular disease and how these relate to the risk factors for coronary artery disease.