Statins May Raise Diabetes Risk In Women

It seems that statins, drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol, may raise risks for developing diabetes in women, a surprising side effect.

The unwanted side effect is most pronounced in middle-aged and older women, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study revealed that among thousands of women reviewed, those who reported using statins at the beginning of the six-to-seven-year research were almost 50 percent likelier to receive a diagnosis of diabetes versus those not taking stains, said Reuters.

“Statin medication use in postmenopausal women is associated with an increased risk for diabetes mellitus,” wrote Yunsheng Ma of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and his colleagues, according to Reuters. The researchers utilized information derived from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which involved over 150,000 diabetes-free women who were in their 50s, 60s and 70s, Reuters explained.

As part of the WHI study, which began in the mid-1990s, some women were prescribed dietary changes, daily hormone therapy, or vitamins, or were told to change no aspect of their lifestyle or diet, explained Reuters. At the start of the WHI study, women completed health questionnaires that included questions regarding if they did or did not take statins and other details of their lives, including diabetes risks and their weight and activity habits, said Reuters. The women were then followed for about six-seven years.

Over 10,200 women developed diabetes and those who reported taking a statin—roughly one in four—were about 48 percent likelier to be diagnosed with diabetes than women not taking states, Reuters explained. The risk was determined after other known diabetes risks were considered.

Although the reasons for the increased risk are not clear, it is believed that statins’ effect on the muscles and liver might cause the body to make more sugar than normal, or may cause patients to exercise less, wrote Reuters. While experts say the benefits of statins outweigh the risks, cautions should be exercised and statin users should look to other ways of reducing their risk of diabetes, such as losing weight and exercising more, as well as having blood sugar levels checked regularly, said Reuters.

Statins are among the most popularly prescribed medications, said Reuters, because of their ability to significantly reduce “bad,” LDL cholesterol levels. Should people without cardiovascular disease, but who are at increased risk over factors including smoking, high blood pressure, or diabetes, take statins? The American Diabetes Association thinks so, and urges statin use for many diabetics. For everyone else, said Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic, statins should be used to help patients with a minimum of a 10 percent likelihood of suffering a heart attack in the next decade; a figure that physicians can help determine, wrote The Huffington Post.

The study is considered an observational study, which can detect, but not prove a risk. Regardless, noted The Huffington Post, other smaller, but more precise studies have detected the same risk, including prior research specifically studying Crestor and a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association in which five randomized trials were reviewed and the increased risk of diabetes was detected in patients taking higher doses of any statin, said The Huffington Post.

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