Harvard Men's Health Watch

Statins help more than harm those at risk of diabetes

In people at risk of both diabetes and heart disease, taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug is still beneficial despite the medication's tendency to raise blood sugar, according to a study in the American Journal of Cardiology. The researchers examined 10 years of medical records for 9,000 people in the Taiwan National Health Insurance system. The participants already had elevated blood sugar, putting them at risk for being diagnosed with diabetes if their levels continued to rise. They were also at greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from heart-related causes—mostly because of coronary artery disease.

It's well established that taking statins can moderately raise blood sugar, tipping prediabetic people over the threshold to a diagnosis. On the other hand, statins reduce the chance of heart problems and strokes. The researchers wanted to see if the benefits of statins outweighed the risks.

The study concluded that 29% of people taking the statin ended up with a new diagnosis of diabetes, compared with 24% in those who did not take the cholesterol-lowering drug. But at the same time, cardiovascular problems were less common in statin users—12% compared with 17%, or a 30% lower chance overall.

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