Should Everyone with Diabetes Be on a Statin?

Dr. Dr. Edelman,

Do I need to be on a statin if my cholesterol is normal?

Dr. Edelman: One of the most frustrating things for the vast majority of healthcare professionals in this country is the resistance of patients to take statins. At some point in the past, irresponsible people started to post on the internet that statins were poison and they would kill your liver, cause diabetes, lead to dementia, etc. None of this has even come close to being medically proven in proper studies. There are many zealot doctors (even one at UCSD where I work) who love to scare the public because of personal gain and unfounded theories.

It has been proven in study after study after study (yes…three times) that by lowering one’s LDL with a statin, the rate of heart attacks, strokes and overall cardiovascular death was significantly reduced compared to those who took a placebo. In fact, a halt was put to additional similar studies because it was unethical to give patients a placebo if their LDL needed to be lowered.

In the studies that looked at thousands of people with and without diabetes, the people who had diabetes and were treated with a statin had the greatest reduction in heart attacks and strokes. This essentially means that statins are more protective in people with diabetes than the non-diabetic population. These days, all statins are generic and very inexpensive. Statins have saved more lives than almost any other drug developed for heart disease, without question. The clinically relevant side effect of statins is mainly muscle aches that affect a minority of folks. Statins do not cause diabetes, liver disease, dementia or the myriad of other conditions you can read about on the internet. I suggest starting statins on a low dose first and titrate up over time until your LDL is at goal. Being on a statin can save your life…seriously!

In general, all people with diabetes should have their LDL cholesterol level below 100mg/dl and below 70 mg/dl if the individual already had a cardiac issue like a heart attack or stroke. Remember that the lipid profile also includes HDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which is another form of fat in the blood. Statins primarily lower LDL.  If your LDL is at goal, i.e. below 100mg/dl and you do not have any history of cardiovascular disease, then in my opinion you do not need to take a statin. If you have had a heart attack, then your goal should be less than 70mg/dl and if it’s not there, then you need to discuss this with your caregiver as soon as possible. Being on a good diet and getting regular exercise are a must as well. You are welcome to download the TCOYD book here and read the chapters on prevention of heart disease. Get your LDL to goal by any means you can. If you try red yeast extract or any other supplement that’s fine, but if they do not get your LDL to goal, you should be on a statin.



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    1. Most recent article I read about Statins showed it prevented heart attacks in patients who had a heart attack, but not in people with no heart attack.

    2. They cause leg pain, who needs that?

    • June…I would not look for reasons not to take statins. They have been shown to prevent heart attacks and strokes and are especially effective in people with diabetes. Don’t believe everything you read about statins!

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    Thanks for that statin and cholesterol information.
    I’ve had Type 1 for 25 years. I have not had any prior problems with my fingers or hands, but fairly suddenly last year I developed Trigger-fingers in my left index & middle fingers. It was extremely painful when my fingers would lock in curled-in position. After about 5-6 months it occurred in my right hand, same fingers. Steroid injections in my left hand helped for about 5 weeks, then back to painful locking of fingers. Several months later, surgery on left hand, trigger-finger-release. It relieved the painful locking, but after 8 weeks of physical therapy, the left fingers still not able to straighten fully or curl into fist. Surgery on right hand put off due to Covid, finally had steroid injections in right middle finger, good improvement after 3 weeks, still catches a little when curling in/gripping, but not painful locking.
    During the physical therapy on left hand earlier this year, I came across a research paper about statin use that said it increased the likelihood of trigger-finger about 15%. I talked to my primary care doctor, she switched me from atorvastatin to Pravastatin, said it should have less likelihood of adverse effects.
    Any comments?
    Pete T1d

    • I don’t think there’s any solid evidence that statins cause trigger finger. I would not look for reasons not to take statins. They have been shown to prevent heart attacks and strokes and are especially effective in people with diabetes. Don’t believe everything you read about statins!

  3. i like this article about Do I need to be on a statin if my cholesterol is normal, it the first time to know this info, thanks for sharing

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    Thank you, this is helpful My endo is pushing for me to take a statin, but my numbers look good, so I think I’ll pass. I have always been fortunate to have great cholesterol numbers, and I keep my T1D under tighter control

    I just ‘discovered’ your site…and the new podcast… and am excited about what I will be able to learn from you.

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