If you're taking a statin, keep taking it unless your doctor tells you to stop. But ask your doctor if you're taking the lowest dose possible based on your heart attack and stroke risk factors.

Postmenopausal women—and the general population as well—who take statins should follow a healthy lifestyle, paying particular attention to factors that lower diabetes risk or keep existing diabetes under control, such as being active, eating healthful foods and keeping weight in check.

If you take a statin, you should have your blood sugar and cholesterol levels monitored regularly, so don't put off any testing your doctor recommends.

Diabetes Warning Signs

Type 2 diabetes symptoms may not appear for months or years. However, some people have warning signs, which include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger or thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent skin, gum or bladder infections
  • Sores that are slow to heal

Having these symptoms doesn't necessarily mean you have diabetes, but if you have one or more of the above, see your doctor.

What about people who have diabetes and take statins?

If you have diabetes and are taking a statin, continue taking the drug unless your doctor instructs you otherwise. Researchers say study findings aren't reason enough to warrant an adjustment to current diabetes guidelines regarding statin therapy.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that all people who have diabetes take a statin regardless of their cholesterol levels if they have cardiovascular disease or if they're over age 40 and have cardiovascular risk factors.

The Case for Statins

Statins significantly lower the risk of heart attack and death in patients with cardiovascular disease. They're able to achieve this by:

  • Reducing plaque in the arteries
  • Reducing inflammation in the heart and blood vessels
  • Reducing levels of C-reactive protein (a marker that measures inflammation)
  • Lowering the risk of blood clots
  • Relaxing blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure

Evidence of statins' effectiveness appears in a 2011 meta-analysis of 76 studies in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine. It reports that the drugs lower rates of:

  • Nonfatal heart attacks by 26 percent
  • Coronary revascularization procedures, such as coronary artery bypass and angioplasty, by 24 percent
  • Total cardiovascular disease death by 20 percent
  • Fatal and nonfatal strokes by 14 percent

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 15 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 21 Jan 2015