A Marathon Health diabetes educator is warning people with type 2 diabetes that they are "two to four times more likely to develop heart disease".
Anna Blackie also reports it can strike "10 to 15 years earlier than the general population".
Her advice comes in the lead-up to National Diabetes Week from Sunday.
A recent Diabetes Australia survey found the majority of people with type 2 diabetes were unaware of their increased risk of heart disease.
A staggering 99 per cent of survey respondents reported they would have made "healthy changes" if they had understood the risks.
"A lot of people aren't aware that if they have diabetes, they are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease and on top of that they are likely to develop it about 10 to 15 years earlier than the general population," Ms Blackie said.
"Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with type 2 diabetes, and indeed the leading cause of death for all Australians.
"I find people often assume that a diagnosis of diabetes just means you have to watch your blood sugar levels, but looking after your heart through management of blood pressure and cholesterol is also essential."
Not-for-profit Marathon Health tells of about 1.7 million people in Australia having diabetes with "one new person developing the condition every five minutes".
The charity, which delivers health and well-being services, says diabetes is Australia's fastest growing chronic disease and a "real risk to our country communities".
Marathon Health diabetes educators are currently working across 24 locations in country NSW to educate and support people living with, or at risk of developing diabetes.
In the previous financial year they supported more than 2110 people.
"We hope to work to reduce this gap in diabetes knowledge and help country people take control of their health," Ms Blackie said.
"Being physically active and following a healthy eating plan is essential for the management and prevention of chronic disease."