Nearly every medication has side effects, but sometimes people are willing to take them on to get some sort of benefit. And while no one wants to deal with heart disease and its effects on the body, taking popular cholesterol medications could bring on another potentially deadly illness: type 2 diabetes.
This is according to a study that looked at the health records of thousands of patients who were prescribed statins to lower their cholesterol that was carried out by The Ohio State University.
This class of drugs theoretically can reduce a person’s risk of stroke and heart attack by lowering their cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Recent federal estimates indicate that more than 25 percent of middle-aged American adults take these drugs, so any major side effects could have a big impact on human health in the U.S.
The researchers discovered that people who take statins had more than twice the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than those who do not take such drugs. This effect seemed to increase with duration; those who took the drugs for two years or longer had three times the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The researchers say this indicates there is indeed a causal relationship, and it’s particularly significant when you consider that a lot of the people who take these drugs do so for many years.
They reached their conclusion after studying 4,683 people who did not have diabetes and were candidates for taking statins based on their heart disease risk; none had taken the drugs before the study began. Around 16 percent of those studied were eventually prescribed the drugs during the study period, which equated to 755 patients; their average age was 46.
The study was retroactive in nature and accounted for other factors that could have led to diabetes, such as age, gender, education, ethnicity, body mass index, doctor visit frequency, waist circumference, and cholesterol and triglyceride readings.
Although the researchers stopped short of suggesting that people stop taking statins based on this study alone, they do think their finding could help inform important discussions about preventing diabetes.
At the very least, people who take statins should be closely monitored for changes in glucose metabolism. They should also be given advice on exercise and diet to help reduce their chances of developing diabetes.
This effect is also something that should be considered when looking at the impact of statins on overall health; the risks of other diseases need to be weighed against the benefits of using the medication for heart health.
Although the study didn’t allow them to analyze which of the different types of statins posed which level of risk, it’s still a good idea to avoid statins wherever possible. Studies have also linked statin use to problems like memory loss and dementia. In fact, it may not be a coincidence that dementia is on the rise just as more people than ever are taking statins regularly.
The problem is that statins decrease your body’s production of CoQ10, which protects the heart and brain; the CoQ10 deficiency often caused by statin use is believed to be behind the muscle pain that many people who take statins experience.
So what can you do if you want to protect your heart health? The best approach is to try to avoid needing statins in the first place and take natural steps to prevent heart disease, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods. That way, you may not have to worry about whether the risks of statins are worth it.
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