Statin drugs help lower cholesterol levels to prevent heart disease, a major risk for diabetics. Doctors may prescribe this medication to diabetes patients depending on their condition and age.
Heart disease is the number one killer of people with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association
. Diabetics are two to four times as likely as non-diabetics to have a heart attack or stroke, the ADA notes.
High levels of harmful cholesterol can build up on the walls of the arteries, decreasing or even blocking blood flow to the heart, resulting in heart disease or heart attack.
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The association now recommends moderate or high doses of statins for diabetics, based on guidelines set up by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.
Recommending statin drugs should be based on a diabetic’s risk, Dr. Richard W. Grant, who chairs the association’s Professional Practice Committee, said, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The committee recommends moderate-intensity statins for diabetics between ages 40 and 75 with no other cardiovascular disease risk factors, and high-intensity statins for those age 40 to 75 with additional cardiovascular risk factors.
“Since all patients with diabetes are at increased risk, it is just a matter of deciding whom to start on moderate versus high-intensity statin doses,” Grant said.
A Finnish study reported in 2015 suggests statin drugs may increase a non-diabetic’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, WebMD said
. However, diabetics should continue with their statin treatment because they have already been diagnosed with the disease, according to Dr. Al Powers, director of the diabetes division of endocrinology and metabolism at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The Finnish study and previous studies that linked an increased risk for diabetes with statin drugs will mean that doctors and patients have to weigh the risks and the benefits of people with prediabetes taking statin drugs, Powers said. Having prediabetes significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
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A healthy, low-fat diet recommended for diabetics often helps lower cholesterol levels, but statin drugs work for those who can’t do it through diet alone.
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