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How do statins affect diabetes?

November 12, 2019 4 min read

Statins are drugs that help manage cholesterol levels in the body, by lowering excess levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol.


In general, the newer forms of statins have very few major side effects, especially for a medication of this type. Side effects of statin use can include:


  • Muscle pain: The most common side effect from statin use, you might develop an aching or tenderness in your muscles, which can range from mild to debilitating. Even as the most common side effect, muscle pain only occurs in around 1 in 20 people who take statins, and it has been linked to the 'nocebo effect,' which is where people who were told about this side effect reported higher levels of it occurring. It's also worth noting that in very rare cases, statins can cause long term muscle damage and liver failure, but the chances of this occurring are literally in the millions.
  • Neurological effects and memory issues: Some people develop memory issues or report feelings of confusion when taking statins. There is little evidence to suggest a correlation, and any reported issues also stopped when the use of statins stopped.
  • Hemmoragic strokes: This is an incredibly rare side effect, and has only been seen in patients suffering from hypertension. Your doctor should be able to advise if this is the case.
  • Diabetes:


It is absolutely true that statins have been linked to a higher chance of developing diabetes, especially in certain people who might already be at risk.


Over the course of a 10 year study that tracked thousands of patients in various situations designed to track the onset of diabetes, and possible ways to prevent the development of the disease.


These studies tracked several things, including anti-diabetic drugs, exercise, and statin usage. It was found that at the start of the program, less than 1 in 20 of the participants were on statins. However, as the years passed, far more of the participants were prescribed the medication, speaking to the widespread use of statins as a lifestyle aid.


General consensus is this is due to the fact that statin use can slow down insulin production in the body, but it can take some time to see major effects.


How do statins affect my chance of diabetes?


The good news is, all the findings were consistent, and reflect favorably on the use of statins as a drug to treat cholesterol, with little to worry about in terms of developing diabetes.


Firstly, statin use increased your chances of developing diabetes irrespective of any other variables. It didn't matter whether participants were on anti-diabetes drugs or stuck to a lifestyle that was designed to limit their chances of developing the disease.


All people who took statins had a heightened chance of developing diabetes.


Overall, the chances of developing diabetes when taking statins increased by around 36%.


It's also known that for people who have pre-diabetes, statins increase the chances of this developing into actual, type 2 diabetes. Also, even before diabetes developed, it was found that blood markers shifted into levels considered diabetic for patients taking statins.


Lastly, it's possible that higher levels of statins increase the chances of developing diabetes. People on higher levels of statins generally seem to develop diabetes earlier in life, and those with pre-diabetes found that it developed into full blown diabetes faster.


However, the average time that it accelerated development by was only around 6 months. It is up to the patient to weigh up the pluses and minuses, but as always, if you have concerns, talk to your medical professional.


The risks of statins and diabetes


When considering the risks of statin use and developing diabetes, it's worth considering several things.


Firstly, that diabetes is a manageable disease, with easy to monitor symptoms and a simple, if invasive treatment method.


However, it is also worth understanding that diabetes is a lifetime condition, and once you have type 2 diabetes, it is something that you will be living with for the rest of your life.


Second, the effects of high cholesterol can be far more immediately impactful, up to and including unpredicted heart attacks, strokes, and other severely life threatening issues that cannot be easily managed.


If you have been prescribed statins by your doctor, it is recommended that you do not halt your treatment because of a fear of developing diabetes. There are no situations in which the risks of developing diabetes outweigh the risks of not taking statins to lower your levels of cholesterol.


Remember. If you have concerns or questions, we always recommend you talk to your healthcare provider.  

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.