Statins and diabetes
Can statins cause diabetes? Several studies have suggested a higher risk of diabetes when taking statins (a cholesterol-lowering medication).
The data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) hints that the risk of new-onset diabetes in patients on a statin is higher than suggested by previous studies.
The investigators have reported a 48% increased risk of diabetes among the postmenopausal women aged 50-79 years old who take the cholesterol-lowering medications.
White, Hispanic and Asian women have a significantly higher risk of diabetes. Among African- Americans, who made up 8.3% of the above study population, there was an insignificant 18% increased diabetes risk associated with statin use at baseline.
Should you stop taking statins?
What should we learn from these studies? Should we change our approach to treating high blood cholesterol levels using statins?
The answer is, no.
Statins are one of the most important classes of medications in the history of medicine. Numerous well-designed studies have shown that statins significantly reduce the number of heart disease events.
Furthermore, we know that heart disease is the number one killer in our society each year.
Clearly, older individuals have a higher risk of blood sugar elevations and diabetes. According to the studies, individuals on a higher dosage of a statin had a higher chance of getting diabetes as well.
Undoubtedly, patients on a higher dosage of statins enjoy better protection against heart disease compared to others on a lower dosage.
Most patients who require a statin have, simultaneously, a higher risk of diabetes. Therefore, it is possible that the patients, in the above studies, who were later diagnosed with diabetes, would end up having diabetes even without being on a statin
.Benefits of Statins Outweigh Diabetes Risks
Certainly, I do not recommend taking a statin without first considering the risk and benefit ratio of this treatment.
I do not agree that we should add a statin to the public water so everybody is able to enjoy its benefits.
We had to learn to use an automobile despite its many dangers and problems. Using medication in the right and measured way is also not different.
Above all, we need to understand the risks and benefits of the cholesterol-lowering treatment for each patient.
This continuous challenge of finding the right balance between risks and benefits with the purpose of delivering the highest value to each individual patient makes our task as physicians and patients rewarding and at the same time unique.