Statins are a type of medication that lowers cholesterol production in the liver, which reduces the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream and is the primary treatment for high blood pressure. They have been proven highly effective in treating hypertension and in reducing the number of mortalities from cardiovascular disease.
Recently, however, research has shown that the use of statins to treat hypertension or in the prevention of cardiovascular disease has been associated with the new development of type 2 diabetes. In a new study, researchers aimed to determine whether statin use was correlated with a new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Patient data was collected from the Yinzhou regional healthcare database between 2010 and 2016. Patient ages ranged between 30 and 90, and none of the participants selected had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the outset of the study. All of the participants admitted were being treated for hypertension. The researchers acknowledge that this does limit the validity of the findings, as these patients are at a higher risk for diabetes development than the general population already.
The 67,993 participants were divided into groups based on their statin use. Statin use was defined as the consistent use of statins over 90 days to treat hypertension or cardiovascular disease. Type 2 diabetes diagnosis was defined as an official diagnosis or a prescription for insulin or other antidiabetic medication in the database records they were accessing. The diagnosis was only recorded as related to statin use if it occurred within the first 180 days of the usage period.
Upon analysis of the data, the researchers found a clear relation between statin use and the development of type 2 diabetes in participants. The participants who did not use statins did not show the same rate of type 2 diabetes development. The results were adjusted for potential confounders, including age, sex, body mass index, comorbidities, lifestyle characteristics, and baseline antihypertensive drug use. Even after factoring in these potential contributors, the results remained the same.
The researchers feel that, although there is a clear risk associated with the use of statins, the benefits they offer in the treatment of cardiovascular health concerns far outweigh the risks. This is particularly true for older or overweight patients who have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease because of hypertension. The researchers do not feel that these results warrant changing medical guidelines for statin use, especially in these high-risk groups of patients.
Further research will be required to fully understand the relationship between statins and the potentially resulting development of type 2 diabetes. This study is only an observational study and cannot offer causational evidence behind the observed relationship between statins and type 2 diabetes. Future studies should examine the related mechanisms between the two, potentially focusing on the shared risk factors between cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
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