The European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) has recommended that all people suffering from diabetes should be taking statins, as research showed that the evidence for their effectiveness in reducing cardiovascular risk in diabetics, and even people without diabetes, is incontrovertible.
Professor John Betteridge, of University College London Medical School, pointed out at the EASD annual meeting in September 2010 that all people with diabetes should be taking statins to reduce their chances of having a heart attack or stroke, although he also warned that they should avoid any drug interactions with other medications being taken.
Betteridge has analysed a number of studies into the use of statins, such as the CollaborativeAtoRvastatin Diabetes Study (CARDS), funded by Diabetes UK, the Department of Health and Pfizer, which examined their benefits in people with type 2 diabetes who did not already have evidence ofcardiovascular disease .
In the CARDS study, atorvastatin 10mg/day was shown to reduce major cardiovascular events by 37 per cent and strokes by 48 per cent, reinforcing guidelines issued by the Joint British Society (JBS) regarding targets for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in this high-risk group.
Betteridge argues that statins are safe if taken appropriately and drug interactions avoided, as they can lead to serious side effects, especially when patients are on a variety of drug treatments. Statins should also not be used by pregnant women at least six weeks before conception.
He realises that statins don’t always get a good press, and that many diabetics will be wary of this advice, but he points out that the evidence shows them to be highly effective in preventing major vascular events in patients with diabetes.
However, the idea of taking statins to offset the effects of junk food has been criticised by diabetes experts. New research had recommended that fast food outlets should give out free statin pills as a way of combating the impact of unhealthy food, as they can reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, which is why they are normally prescribed to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are now worries that using statins could encourage people to lead unhealthier lives, eat more fast food and therefore increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Although studies have found that a single, cheap statin pill could offset the increased risk to the heart caused by the fat in a cheeseburger and a small milkshake, there are concerns that it is both irresponsible and dangerous to promote their use as a quick fix to counteract the effects of an unhealthy diet.
Zoe Harrison, Care Advisor at the charity Diabetes UK, said Statins can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering the bad cholesterol in our blood which can be raised due to a high-fat diet. However, they don’t prevent all the side effects that result from an excessive intake of fatty food. Statins also have some serious side effects – such as damage to the liver, pancreas and muscles – which is why they should always be prescribed by your doctor who can then closely monitor how you are responding to the medication.
An Overview of Diabetes and Statins
Diabetes and statins have a complex relationship and are the focus of intense patient and healthcare debate. Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Statins are used in diabetes care due to the knowledge that people with diabetes face a greater likelihood of heart attack and stroke.
When used alongside good blood glucose control and other medication, the case for statins argues that they cut cholesterol levels and lower the risk of a cardiovascular event.
Type 2 diabetes in particular is certainly a disease of the circulatory system, and this argument has some weight.
How can I lower my risk of cardiovascular problems without taking statins?
There are many ways to lower your risk of stroke and cholesterol levels. These include stopping smoking and controlling your blood pressure. Diet and exercise can help to lower raised blood pressure, and a healthy lifestyle can cut cholesterol levels. However, some doctors prescribe statins to help reduce cholesterol levels.
What do statins do for people with diabetes?
Statins slow the action of the liver in manufacturing cholesterol, causing blood cholesterol levels to fall.
Do statins work for people with diabetes?
Statins definitely lower cholesterol, and major studies have shown that the risk of heart attack and stroke plummets amongst people with diabetes taking statins. Results indicate that statins can prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing heart attack and stroke risks.
What are the side effects of statins?
Statins are usually well-tolerated by people with diabetes. Side effects can include:
• Affect on liver function
• Stomach problems such as abdominal pain, constipation, flatulence, diarrhoea and vomiting
• Disorder of the muscles (myopathy)
Shouldn’t all people with diabetes therefore take statins?
Statins are the subject of current and ongoing healthcare debate when it comes to diabetes patients. Further research is in progress to make the wider use of statins in diabetes care more clear.
Often, people under 40 may not benefit from taking a statin.
A statin is also just one part of diabetes care and shouldn’t be used instead of good diet, exercise, smoking and excess drinking avoidance.