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Can Statins Cause Diabetes?

For many of us, getting older means a gradual increase in a range of ailments from minor to significant. Without a little outside assistance, things that our bodies were once able to do naturally and easily suddenly seem to go haywire. At the very minimum, waking up requires acknowledgement of a plethora of aches and pains that weren’t there just a few years ago. I loathe the fact that my once 20/20 vision now needs reading glasses; my knees have begun to make little popping noises, especially when it rains or it is extremely humid, and various other less polite problems are beginning to overtake me (some of which you men won’t have to experience). I take comfort, however, in knowing that I’m not alone!

Apart from griping, to combat our ailments or deficiencies, we may find ourselves turning to medicines, pills, procedures, devices, and supplements to keep ourselves in working order. As I look around at my peers, I notice that we all need glasses to focus, most take calcium for bone health, and some are taking medicines to manage cholesterol or blood pressure, or other treatments to counteract the symptoms of the growing list of issues and complaints.

Not that all of us have every one of these problems, of course, and some people, through a combination of genes, lifestyle, and luck seem to dodge every bullet that is out there (I hate those people a little bit). My husband’s 104-year old aunt is one of them. I don’t hate her. I do envy her, though. All she complains about is “a touch of arthritis.” Bless her heart! But most of us get a little rusty, a little creaky, and a little… lots of other things!

If you are someone like me who tries to be careful about what she puts into her body, the whole idea of ingesting a bunch of corrective or medicinal substances in an attempt to get back to “normal” is fraught with challenges. Obviously, some problems are serious, and drugs or other serious measures are sometimes the only steps to take. Other times it seems as though there are too many supposedly “easy” fixes. In an age of total convenience, it is all too easy to dive right in without weighing the risks or considering other options. I have mentioned this in previous articles. In the past if my doctor gave me a prescription, I dutifully filled it; today, I think long and hard about it and seek a natural remedy, should one exist, in its place.

High Cholesterol

One set of “wonder drugs” that people have been using since the 1980s are drugs that contain statins. The drugs work by blocking the body’s ability to produce cholesterol. High cholesterol does not have any negative symptoms per se, but it is one of the big bad risk factors for serious cardiac problems and strokes. As a result, people whose test results return high cholesterol or borderline high cholesterol levels are generally advised to lower it as soon as possible. Statin drugs have also been shown to be highly effective, but there are, of course a list of possible side effects that users expose themselves to, ranging from benign to serious.

However, for some people, getting bad cholesterol to healthy levels with just diet and exercise (or omitting risky activities such as smoking) is a serious challenge. Bad genes will have their say, and other times overall cholesterol will go way down while bad cholesterol will stay relatively high. When that is the case, many people have turned to statin drugs to get their numbers down once and for all. If you are one of those people, you may have already heard about this or will surely want to know about it.

In 2010, researchers released the results from multiple studies that revealed a connection between statins and increased incidences of Type 2 diabetes. As a result, very recently, the FDA began requiring new labels for statin drugs that warn of this connection.

High cholesterol is definitely not something to ignore and can lead to more serious problems in the future, but diabetes is, of course, an equally serious medical problem. This new information, you can imagine, is causing a serious dilemma for high cholesterol sufferers who have relied on statin drugs for years.

One of the major ironies with cholesterol and the new revelations about statins is that most people are not actually suppressing a serious medical issue by taking these drugs. Instead, they are keeping their cholesterol at bay in the hope of preventing future heart attacks or strokes. The unfortunate and unintended irony in all this means that essentially healthy people may end up contracting a serious illness in their attempts to prevent another.

The Hits Just Keep On Coming

As if that weren’t enough, the studies show a stronger correlation between a higher dose of statins and diabetes incidence, when compared to smaller doses of statins. Patients with greater cardiac risk factors or a previous cardiac or stroke incident may be more likely to take a higher dose of statins, thus putting them at greater risk for developing otherwise non-existent or borderline diabetes mellitus.

Statin drugs have been around for over twenty years, but the connections between statins and diabetes only began to emerge around four years ago. And even that information did not become clear cut enough for the FDA to take action until recent weeks.

One big outstanding question mark is whether statin drugs are a direct cause of diabetes for some patients, or whether the correlation is part of some other risk factor present in some patients and not in others. Earlier studies have been challenged because participants were not uniformly screened for diabetes or diabetes risk factors. This implies that some of the diabetes cases popping up in statin studies may not really be related to the drugs at all. Another consideration is the fact that people with high cholesterol and cardiac risk factors may naturally be at greater risk for diabetes because of co-morbidities, such as obesity. It is enough to make one dizzy, I know.

Concerned Cardiologist: Meet Profits Over People’s Mouthpiece

Advocacy can come from seemingly unlikely places. Cardiologist Eric Topol, former chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner College of Medicine (who is one of the cardiologists who raised concerns about Vioxx, which led to its eventual withdrawal from the market), wrote an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. It staunchly warns against statin use.

In summary, when he looked at these data, he concluded that by taking statins, this could potentially increase the diabetic population by approximately 100,000 new patients. In his opinion, the risks do not outweigh the benefits offered by statins. This is a pretty bold position to take by a cardiologist whose colleagues would benefit greatly from continuing to write prescriptions to their patients and then let the endocrinologists deal with the after math.

Not surprisingly, Forbes magazine launched a series of attacks against Dr. Topol arguing that the benefits largely outweigh the risks. It is difficult to believe that Forbes has genuine concern for patients, given whose interests the magazine serves – Big Pharma, the insurance companies, and Wall Street’s.

The Alternative

Although it seems dizzying, it really isn’t. While Big Pharma’s solution will continue to advocate popping a pill, which the FDA and the insurance companies are all too happy to back up, the solution to all this is pretty clear. The choice is yours, but it seems that if taking statins does lower your cholesterol but it also puts you at risk for myriad side effects and now diabetes as well, why not just opt out? With modifications in your diet and plenty of exercise, you can lower their cholesterol naturally while they continue to hash this one out.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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