Statins and how they work

Statins are a group of medicines that work to lower your cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic, statins are able to lower cholesterol by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol. Statins may also help your body reabsorb the cholesterol in your arteries, which could be causing blockages. By doing this, the lower cholesterol levels may prevent heart disease, heart attacks or strokes.1

Some common names of statins are atorvastatin, simvastatin, rosuvastatin, pravastatin, lovastatin.

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Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor to determine what is right for you.

Statin treatment for heart disease and diabetes

Taking statins usually depends on your cholesterol levels and heart health. People with diabetes, for instance, can often be at high risk for heart disease.2 A symptom of diabetes can be high blood pressure, which may lead to heart disease, so those who deal with diabetes may benefit from statins.

If you have one or more of the following risk factors, talk to your doctor about whether adding a statin to your therapy might be right for you:

  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking

Possible side effects and interactions

Always talk to your doctor if you experience any side effects or unusual symptoms. Statin medication can have possible side effects or interact with food or other drugs. It is good practice to keep a list of all the medications, supplements and over-the-counter drugs you are taking, so you can let your doctor know.

If you have taken a statin before and experienced any side effects, let your doctor know. Your doctor may be able to switch you to another statin with a lower risk of side effects.

Possible side effects of statins

  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Rash
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Liver problems (only 2%)

Possible drug interactions

  • Amiodarone
  • Amlodipine and diltiazem
  • Antibiotics (such as erythromycin)
  • Antifungals (such as ketoconazole)
  • Digoxin
  • Gemfibrozil
  • Phenytoin
  • Warfarin

More on diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes is a disease in which your body no longer makes enough or responds to insulin. Due to this, your body is unable to process blood sugar, which increases the chances of having:

  • High blood pressure
  • Blindness
  • Nerve damage

These changes in your body also put you at a greater risk for heart disease. Heart disease is a condition that can be caused by high cholesterol and high blood pressure, among other factors, that may result in heart attack and stroke.

Statin use and diabetes

If you are currently taking medication for high blood pressure, ask your doctor if statins may be beneficial for you, as well.

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Video Transcript:

If you take medicine for high blood sugar, you might benefit from cholesterol lowering medicines called statins, such as atorvastatin, lovastatin or simvastatin. Diabetes damages arteries and makes them targets for hardening, increasing the likelihood for high blood pressure and other heart and circulation problems. According to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, statins can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Your doctor will know what’s best for you. Have a discussion about the drugs you are taking and how you are taking them to make sure everything is still safe. Please talk to your doctor about adding a statin to your current drug therapy if you’re currently not taking one. At Humana, we strive to be your lifetime partner in reaching good health. Humana: live life fully. 

For more about managing diabetes, visit the Humana diabetes resources page.

Sources:

  1. “Statins: Are These Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Right for You?,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed September 13, 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/statins/art-20045772. , opens new window
  2. Roy Eldor, Itamar Raz, “American Diabetes Association Indications for Statins in Diabetes,” Diabetes Care 32(Suppl 2): S384–S391, accessed September 13, 2018, doi:10.2337/dc09-S345.

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