Menopausal Women Taking Statins May Increase Their Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Every year that passes reinforces to me (and many of my friends) that our bodies are systems. Tinker with one part (such as taking a drug) and you may have an effect on another bodily function.  And while drugs can definitely be good, there can be some unintended consequences.


    Take statins, for instance. According to MedicineNet.com, statin medications are often prescribed by doctors to lower blood cholesterol levels in the blood through reducing cholesterol production in the liver. “Cholesterol is critical to the normal function of every cell in the body,” Medicinenet.com stated. “However, it also contributes to the development of atherosclerosis, a condition in which cholesterol-containing plaques form within arteries. These plaques block the arteries and reduce the flow of blood to the tissues that arteries supply. When plaques rupture, a blood clot forms on the plaque, thereby further blocking the artery and reducing the flow of blood.”

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    However, a new study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that menopausal women who used statin medications may increase their risk of developing diabetes. The researchers in this study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, studied 153,000 women who participated in the longitudinal Women’s Health Initiative.  When the study started in 1993, the participants were an average of 63 years old and approximately 7% were taking statin drugs. By 2005, more than 10,200 of these women had developed Type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, the women who were taking any type of statin drug were 1.5 times more likely to develop diabetes.


    “Type 2 diabetes, once known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar (glucose), your body's main source of fuel,” the Mayo Clinic website states. Type 2 diabetes is caused when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin.


    The University of Massachusetts researchers stressed that additional analysis is needed to determine the connection between statins and diabetes, and whether statins affect the way a woman’s body manages insulin and glucose responses. However, they do not believe that women should stop taking statins.


    Which brings us back to another important takeaway about the human body – diet and exercise can help offset Type 2 diabetes since excess weight and inactivity are believed to be contributing factors to the disease’s development.


    Women who are pre-diabetic should consider embracing a diabetes diet, also known as a medical nutrition therapy (MNT) for diabetes.  “Rather than a restrictive diet, a diabetes diet or MNT is a healthy-eating plan that's naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” the Mayo Clinic website reported. “In fact, a diabetes diet is the best eating plan for most everyone.” This diet includes:

    • Healthy carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and low-fat dairy products)
    • Fiber-rich foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole-wheat flour and wheat bran)
    • Heart-healthy fish (cod, tuna, halibut, salmon, mackerel and herring)
    • Good fats (avocados, almonds, pecans, walnuts, olives, canola oil, olive oil, and peanut oil).

    You should also avoid saturated fats (high-fat dairy products and animal proteins), trans fats (processed foods, baked goods, shortening and stick margarine), cholesterol (high-fat dairy products and high-fat animal proteins) and sodium.


  • Exercise can help as well. “The latest research has put exercise at the forefront in the prevention, control and treatment of diabetes because it decreases insulin resistance,” the American Council of Exercise (ACE) website stated. “Following regular exercise training, cells can better respond to insulin and appropriately take up glucose out of the blood. Exercise also helps to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body fat. And for every 10 pounds of weight an individual loses, they will experience a 20 percent improvement in insulin sensitivity.”

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    If you have type 2 diabetes, ACE recommends doing moderate-intensity exercise for 20-60 minutes on 3-4 days per week (although daily exercise is highly recommended), resistance exercise at least twice a week, and flexibility exercises at least 2-3 days per week. “The ultimate goal is to expend a minimum of 1,000 calories per week with physical activity for health benefits, or 2,000 calories per week for weight loss,” ACE’s website stated. “Keep in mind that these are goals that you should work up to gradually over time.”

Published On: January 11, 2012