Older women who take high doses of statins have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, research has shown.
Statins, a cholesterol-lowering drug used to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, were shown to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by 33 per cent among women aged 75 years when taken in lower doses.
Women who went on to take higher doses of the drug had an increased type 2 diabetes risk of 50 per cent.
“Statins are highly prescribed in this age group but there are very few clinical trials looking at their effects on older women,” said Dr Mark Jones, University of Queensland, Australia. “The vast majority of research is on 40- to 70-year-old men.
“We found that almost 50 per cent of women in their late seventies and eighties in the study took statins, and five per cent were diagnosed with new-onset diabetes.”
A survey was used for the research, which was based on data from 8,372 women born between 1921 and 1926. All the women were regularly monitored as part of the Women’s Health Australia study.
Jones and colleagues observed a “dose effect’ where the risk of type 2 diabetes heightened as the dosage of statins increased.
During the 10-year study, the majority of the women progressed to higher doses of statins, and Jones has urged that GPs and elderly female patients need to be aware of the risks.
“The dose–response for statins on new onset of diabetes suggests elderly women should not be exposed to higher doses of statins,” he said.
“Those elderly women taking statins should be carefully and regularly monitored for increased blood glucose to ensure early detection and management of diabetes.”
The study has been published online in the journal Drugs and Aging.

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