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Statins, the drugs now widely used to control "bad" LDL cholesterol in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients, should be offered to most people with diabetes regardless of their age, sex or cardiovascular health and history.
That's the contention of British and Australian researchers who studied 18,686 people with diabetes and 71,370 people without the disease, tracking any lowering of mortality rates that could be attributed to a reduction in LDL cholesterol.
The studies, conducted at Oxford University in the United Kingdom and a clinical trial center in Sydney in Australia, found that people with diabetes taking statins enjoyed an overall 20 percent reduction in their risk of stroke or heart attack. The drugs had a beneficial effect on all people with diabetes in the study, no matter their age, sex or previous history of cardiovascular disease.
Previous studies have shown that statin therapy is useful in preventing damage to veins and arteries, which is why it's routinely prescribed to people with diabetes because of the inflammation caused by high blood sugars.
But researchers were curious to see if statins could also be counted on to lower the risk of heart attacks and heart disease. They also wanted to know if statins could be a useful therapy even in cases where diabetics had no history of vascular or heart problems.
After five years, researchers found that diabetics on statins suffered 42 fewer deaths per 1,000 than people with diabetes who were not taking statins. They concluded that statin therapy should be offered to most people with diabetes, with the exception of children at low risk and pregnant women.
Although researchers' recommendations that statin therapy be added to the medicinal tool box available to people with diabetes, Prof. Bernard Cheung of the U.K.'s University of Birmingham reminds diabetic patients that "apart from drug treatment, one must not forget the importance of lifestyle changes, such as cessation of smoking, healthy diet and regular exercise."
Sources: Medical Research Council, U.K.; EurekAlert