People who take cholesterol-lowering statins are at a much greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes than previously thought, according to a study published in the journal Diabetologia.
Statins, such as the widely prescribed Lipitor, are used to lower cholesterol levels in order to prevent heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular death. The drugs have been shown to increase blood sugar levels, a precursor to the development of type 2 diabetes. Previous studies have found as much as a 36 percent increased risk of diabetes in people who take statins.
The latest study, however, found that men who used statins had a 46 percent higher risk compared to men who did not take the drugs. Furthermore, statin therapy was linked to a 24 percent reduction in insulin sensitivity and a 12 percent reduction in insulin secretion.
Previous studies also focused on fasting blood sugar levels, whereas the more recent study used A1C and glucose tolerance tests, both of which are more precise diagnostic tools for diabetes.
Michael Rocco, MD, Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Stress Testing, Section of Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic, said statin users who have diabetes risk factors should be extra diligent in maintaining a healthy weight, getting exercise and eating a healthy diet. He also said that younger women should be prescribed statins for primary prevention only with careful physician consideration of their cardiovascular risk.
For patients at risk for diabetes, a reduced statin dose may be appropriate along with extra monitoring for the disease.
Source: Cleveland Clinic