Management of the high cholesterol is an important topic. There are 102 million Americans with high cholesterol, according to the CDC.
Many people who are diagnosed are currently taking statin medication to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Unfortunately, statins have recently been found to modestly increase risk for diabetes.
High cholesterol levels are a concern because of the potential damage they could cause in the body. Cholesterol is measured by looking at the total cholesterol — HDL or “good” cholesterol, and LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
LDL is considered bad cholesterol because it contributes to higher risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure. LDL cholesterol contributes the most to creating plaque in the blood vessels.
When blood vessels get damaged inside, the normal healing process can get altered if the LDL cholesterol circulating in the blood becomes trapped in the repair process of the vessel. Plaque can be created.
Plaque is dangerous because it narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to get to organs and cells of the body. This process is called atherosclerosis.
If the blood vessels of the heart get narrowed or blocked, this can cause a heart attack. Finally, if the plaque breaks off it could cause a stroke.
One medical intervention to prevent this process uses cholesterol-lowering medications called statins. These drugs have coenzyme A reductase inhibitors that lower cholesterol by blocking a step in the production of LDL cholesterol.
When patients have high cholesterol levels they are often put on statins to protect them from heart disease.
Studies are now showing that statin medications can cause increases in blood glucose levels and modestly increase the risk for diabetes in patients.
Statin medications still reduce the risk of heart disease so they are an important medication for lowering cholesterol. However, we now know we have to look at the whole health picture for patients before deciding on a recommendation.Read more in Diabetes Health Center