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Statins Could Increase Your Diabetes Risk



Women who take cholesterol lowering medication should take note: according to research recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, cholesterol lowering drugs have been linked to increased diabetes risk among post-menopausal women.

A large scientific team including researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard University and New York University Medical Center looked at whether incidences of new-onset diabetes mellitus is linked to cholesterol lowering medications in postmenopausal women.

To find the answer, they recruited 153,840 nondiabetic postmenopausal women from 40 clinical centers across the United States whom were participating in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). The WHI study ran from 1993 - 1998 with ongoing patient follow-up, women selected for the study were between the ages of 50 - 79. 

Researchers looked at statin (cholesterol lowering meds) at recruitment and again 3 years later. They also looked for diabetes mellitus incidents in the volunteers immediately upon their enrollment in the study.


Double Whammy

After analyzing the data, investigators counted 10,242 incidents of diabetes mellitus among the WHI volunteers. Moreover they found that statin use was linked to these startlingly high diabetes numbers.

Regardless of race, ethnicity or body type, or type of medication, women who took cholesterol lowering drugs were at risk for developing diabetes. On the other hand, postmenopausal women who didn't take statins were not at increased diabetes risk.

The bottom line is that women who did not have diabetes prior to enrollment in the WHI study, developed the disease after taking cholesterol lowering medication.

Based on these findings, the scientific team concluded: "Statin medication use in postmenopausal women is associated with an increased risk for DM." 

The study results are very interesting because statins are designed to improve heart health by lowering bad cholesterol. Yet, for some unknown reasons, it appears that one of statin's side effects is that it causes postmenopausal women to develop diabetes, a disease which itself can lead to heart problems. 

Despite the association between statins and adult onset diabetes mellitus, cholesterol lowering medications are important. Therefore, more research should be conducted to learn how to reduce diabetes risk in postmenopausal women.

In fact, the investigators recommended that: "Further study by statin type and dose may reveal varying risk levels for new onset DM in this population."

Let's hope so.

To learn more about diabetes and heart disease, visit the American Diabetes Association.

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Article Source 

Culver, A., Ockene, I., Balasubramanian, R., Olendzki, B., Sepavich, D., Wactawski-Wende, J., Manson, J., Qiao, Y., Liu, S., Merriam, P., Rahilly-Tierny, C., Thomas, F., Berger, J., Ockene, J., Curb, J., & Ma, Y. (2012). Statin Use and Risk of Diabetes Mellitus in Postmenopausal Women in the Women's Health Initiative Archives of Internal Medicine DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.625


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