High cholesterol can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, like heart disease and stroke. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL is the “good” cholesterol; LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol and leads to fatty buildups in arteries, called arteriosclerosis. A lipid panel, which is a series of blood tests, can measure cholesterol levels.
Statins are medications that work to slow down the liver’s production of cholesterol and help remove LDL cholesterol already circulating in the blood. Studies have shown that statins are one of the most effective treatments for this condition, lowering LDL levels by 20-50%. They have been directly associated with lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Statin Therapy for Diabetes
Diabetes can increase the risk of developing high LDL levels and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends statin therapy for most adults with diabetes based on their risk of cardiovascular disease, specifically atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), regardless of lipid levels. The guidelines for individuals with diabetes to use statin therapy are as follows:
- Ages 40-75 years without ASCVD: use moderate-intensity statin therapy in addition to lifestyle therapy
- Ages 20-39 years with additional ASCVD risk factors: may be reasonable to use statin therapy in addition to lifestyle therapy
- Ages 50-70 years or higher-risk individuals (such as diabetics), especially those with multiple ASCVD risk factors: use high-intensity statin therapy
In addition to prescribing statin therapy, clinicians might also address a patient’s lifestyle choices that can be correlated to developing a higher risk for diabetes and ASCVD. Specific lifestyle interventions might include focusing on weight loss through dieting and increasing physical activity, as well as smoking and alcohol cessation.
Can Statins Cause Diabetes?
Studies show that statins may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by causing an increase in blood sugar and a decrease in insulin sensitivity. This is especially true for individuals with preexisting risk factors, like medical history, age, gender, certain lifestyle habits, and patients with prediabetes. Statin type and treatment dosage also had a direct correlation to the development of type 2 diabetes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning label for statin medications, although they clarify that the benefits may outweigh the small risk.
Is Statin Therapy Right for You?
There are many benefits to statin therapy for adults with diabetes; however, there are also potential risks. Your health care provider can help to measure your health status for diabetes and consult you on what’s best for your situation. Talk to your doctor to learn more about statin therapy for diabetes and whether it’s right for you.