Diabetes from a cholesterol-lowering drug? At a high enough dose, anything can be harmful, even water. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise you that one of the most effective and widely prescribed class of medications used to reduce the risk of heart attack has a potential side effect that increases with dose. For example, taking the highest dose of the statin Zocor, 80 mg, is associated with an increased risk of muscle damage. Now, a recent study concludes that high doses of statins slightly increase the risk of developing diabetes.
Approximately 32 million Americans over the age of 45 take a statin, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. That’s one out of every four people in that age group. The significant drop in deaths from heart disease in recent years can be traced in part to the widespread use of these cholesterol-lowering medications.
On the other hand, the new findings indicate that there are two additional cases of diabetes for every 1,000 patient-years racked up by patients taking high-dose statins. That means if 100 patients took high doses of statins for 10 years each, two of them would develop diabetes. So, how concerned should you be by the news that high doses of cholesterol lowering drugs might increase your chance of developing diabetes?
Obviously, you should discuss the implications of the results with your physician. She can tell you if you are receiving intensive-statin therapy because your heart attack risk is high. Remember, statins have proven benefits for treating cardiovascular disease. Additionally, the authors of the study believe that the “net cardiovascular benefit in high risk individuals will still strongly favor statin therapy” despite the increased risk of diabetes.
If you can make diet and lifestyle changes that lower your risk of heart attack, and possibly lower the dose of statins you need, you might lower your risk of experiencing a side effect. But the evidence is clear that if you really need a statin, you are more likely to benefit from it than not.
In the meantime, if diabetes is a concern of yours, check out these 10 super foods that help fend off the disease.