Older women taking cholesterol-lowering statins at greater risk of diabetes

A study conducted among older Australian women in their late seventies and eighties and taking cholesterol-lowering statins are at a much higher risk of developing diabetes.

University of Queensland researchers revealed through their study that women over 75 faced a 33 per cent higher chance of developing diabetes if they were taking statins. The risk increased to over 50 per cent if the women took higher doses of statins to control their cholesterol levels.

Statins, a class of drugs that lower cholesterol in the blood, are prescribed to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. While statins are highly prescribed to people in this age group, there have been very few clinical trials that have looked into their effects on older women, scientists note. Most of the studies around effects of statins have concentrated on men in the age group of 40 to 70 years.

The team found that almost 50 per cent of women in their late seventies and eighties and who participated in the study took statins with five per cent were diagnosed with new-onset diabetes

Researchers point out that the risk is directly related to the dose of statins and this is startling because the dosage of statins are progressively increased as the patients grow older. Scientists point out that GPs and their elderly female patients should be aware of the risks. The authors have also warned that elderly women taking statins should be carefully and regularly monitored for increased blood glucose to ensure early detection and management of diabetes.

The research was based on prescription and survey data from 8372 women born between 1921 and 1926 who are regularly surveyed as part of the Women’s Health Australia study (also known as the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health). The research is published in Drugs and Ageing.

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