Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes
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The reason why you have to take the little tablets is due to the dangerous nature of high cholesterol levels. Having too much of the fatty substance in your blood can lead to health problems, ranging from heart disease to stroke. That’s where statins come to the rescue. The medication is able to reduce the production of the “bad” cholesterol in your liver.
Statins represent one of the most commonly taken medications in the UK, with around seven to eight million Britons on the tablets, according to the British Heart Foundation.
Apart from being able to slash high cholesterol levels, statins can be also given to patients with heart disease, the NHS explains.
There are many different types of statins but they generally come in the form of tablets taken once a day.
Although the majority of people tolerate statins well without any problems, the tablets can cause some potential side effects, the health service explains.
One of the possible side effects of the medicine is higher blood sugar levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
They explained: “It’s possible your blood sugar (blood glucose) level may increase when you take a statin, which may lead to developing type 2 diabetes.
“The risk is small but important enough that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on statin labels regarding blood glucose levels and diabetes.”
This rise usually happens when your blood sugar levels are already higher than what’s normal and when you belong to the prediabetes or diabetes range.
As the medication is able to prevent heart attacks in people with diabetes, the “relevance of the mild increase in sugar values with statins observed in some people is unclear”, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Plus, the effect may be “more pronounced” in people who take larger statins doses, according to Diabetes.co.uk.
There is also research that examined this link, including a study published in The Journal of Investigative Medicine.
This research found statins to be connected with a rise in fasting blood glucose in patients with and without diabetes.
This connection was independent of age and use of aspirin or medications that reduce blood pressure.
Another study, published in the The Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, found a new onset of diabetes to be increased by use of statins.
They reported: “In this regard, some statins appear to be more strongly related (e.g., simvastatin, rosuvastatin and atorvastatin) than others (e.g., pravastatin).
“Although causality of this association has not been proved, there are evidences from experimental studies that make this association plausible.”
However, the study shared that benefits appear to outweigh the risks, especially in moderate to high cardiovascular risk populations.
The Mayo Clinic also added that the benefits of taking statins outweigh the “small risk” of higher blood sugar levels.
They advise you to “talk to your doctor” if you are concerned about this side effect.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) stresses not to “stop” taking statins because of an increase in blood sugar levels as you should always talk to your doctor before ceasing use.
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