Statins are a type of drug prescribed to patients with high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. They work by blocking a substance needed to make LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, in your liver. As it travels through the blood, LDL cholesterol deposits fatty particles on the arterial walls in the heart and brain. Over time, buildup can cause a blockage that can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Statins help lower LDL cholesterol. This can lower your risk of stroke and heart attack. Statins also help to:
- reduce inflammation
- improve the health of the lining of blood vessels
- reduce the risk of blood clots
Statins have been used for more than 25 years. In February 2012, though, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised health providers and consumers that the use of statins may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Statins are usually safe and provide many benefits. As with many drugs, you and your doctor must weigh the pros and cons of taking a statin drug.
The FDA still believes in the benefits of statins. The 2012 announcement isn’t meant to urge all people to stop taking statins. Rather, it advises doctors to monitor the blood sugar levels of their patients who take these drugs.
The American Diabetes Association states that the benefits of taking a statin outweigh the risk of acquiring diabetes. The American Heart Association suggests that there isn’t enough data to support stopping your statin use if you have type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a disorder that affects how much insulin your body releases, how your body uses it, or both. Insulin is a hormone your pancreas makes and releases after your body breaks food down into glucose. The hormone helps transport the glucose from your blood into your body’s cells, where it is used for energy or stored. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body either can’t make enough insulin or can’t properly use the insulin that it does make. This results in blood sugar levels that are too high.
There is a link between type 2 diabetes and statin use. For patients with cardiovascular disease or a history of heart attack, the benefits of taking a statin drug often outweigh the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or making your existing diabetes worse.
If you take statins and are concerned about your risk of developing diabetes, talk to your doctor. They will discuss the different types of statin drugs available and dosages that may be appropriate for you and your concerns.