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Should you take statins if you have diabetes?

When it comes to cardiovascular disease, the fewer risk factors you have, the better your chance of avoiding a heart attack or stroke. Diabetes raises your risk for heart disease. That's why it's important to control other risk factors like high cholesterol, especially high LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

Many people have questions about the use of statin medications for those with diabetes. Below are the answers to many common questions about the connection between diabetes, statin medications and heart health.

Q: How does diabetes affect your heart?

A: Excess glucose in your blood can damage blood vessels.

“Having excess glucose in the bloodstream can disrupt blood flow to the heart and brain -- increasing one’s risk of heart attack or stroke. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in individuals with diabetes,” said Kevin M. Young, M.D., a specialist in cardiology with Vanderbilt Heart-Columbia who is a member of the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center.

Kevin M. Young, M.D.

Kevin M. Young, M.D.
is a specialist in cardiology on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center. He is associated with Vanderbilt Heart-Columbia and is board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease.

Q: What can you do to lower heart disease risk if you have diabetes?

A: Managing your cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as your diabetes, are important steps in reducing your risk. To do this, make healthy lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating healthy and exercising. You may also need medication.

Q: Should you take statins if you have diabetes?

A: Statin medications are effective in lowering LDL cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends statin therapy for many adults over age 40 with diabetes. The ADA guidelines consider total cardiovascular risk factors rather than specific LDL levels.

Q: Do statins have side effects?

A: Statins are generally well-tolerated by most people. The main complaint some users have is muscle pain, called myalgia. Lowering the dosage or switching to a different statin typically reduces side effects.

Q: Should I talk to my doctor about statins if I have diabetes?

A: Every person has different heart disease risk factors. If you have diabetes and/or high cholesterol, talk to your doctor about what you can do to lower your risk.

“Taking a statin medication may be one way to help lower your risk of heart disease, but each individual is different,” said Dr. Young. “Patients are encouraged to speak to their physician about the benefits and risks of medication as well as changes in lifestyle that can contribute to a healthier heart.”

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Date Last Reviewed: August 20, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD
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