Will my cholesterol med give me diabetes?

“Statin” drugs like atorvastatin, simvastatin, and lovastatin are associated with significant reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease in a vast body of medical research.  This is true for both patients who have never had a heart attack or stroke, and for those who have.

What is less clear about these medications is how they affect blood sugar and diabetes risk.

Several small studies have suggested that statin drugs can increase blood sugars, especially for older adults – but there have been confounding factors in these articles that limited data interpretation.

A new, much larger population-based study published by Cederberg and colleagues appears to show that statin therapy increased the risk for type 2 diabetes by 46%, even after adjustment for confounding factors.

What does this mean for patients?  If you are on a statin drug, should you stop it to prevent diabetes?

The answer is not completely clear, and would depend on each individual patientʻs history and risk factors.  Patients at high risk for heart attack or stroke should most likely stay with their statin therapy.  Iʻve also heard the opinion that based on this study, patients in the pre-diabetes range for blood sugar should take additional medication (like metformin) to help prevent diabetes, if they are on a statin.

My own 2 cents?  I would highly recommend speaking with us, and/or your own primary care doctor and cardiologist, first, to talk about your own personal situation and health risks, to decide what is optimal.  And remember – lowering your body fat % through medically-supervised weight reduction will do far more to lower your diabetes risk AND your cardiovascular disease risk too – whether you stay with your statin, or not!

Source: Cederberg et al, Diabetologia
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