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Can Cholesterol Drugs Cause Diabetes?

You might have heard that certain cholesterol drugs can cause type 2 diabetes. Should you stop taking your cholesterol drugs? Lynn Shuster, M.D., answers your question.

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While it's probably best to keep taking your medication as prescribed, I can understand your confusion. A recent study found that people on high doses of cholesterol-lowering statins were 12 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those on more modest doses.

But it's not clear whether statins actually cause diabetes—for example, by making the body resistant to insulin—or whether the link is coincidental. In fact, some statin users might be more likely to develop diabetes simply because they're less likely to die of cardiovascular disease.

If you are at high risk of heart attack or stroke and are doing well on statin therapy, the benefits of the medication probably outweigh the potential downsides. Your doctor can advise you on alternatives if necessary. And I should add that diabetes testing is routine for people at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. By working closely with your doctor, you can protect yourself from all those health issues.

As director of the Office of Women's Health at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Dr. Lynn Shuster is at the leading edge of women-specific medicine.

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