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Statins and diabetes

Statins are a medication that help you lower your bad cholesterol. You usually take them as a tablet.

Cholesterol is fat that is found in our blood, and there are different types. We all need some cholesterol, but it’s when the bad cholesterol (LDL) becomes too high that our risk of developing heart diseases is increased. 

Statins are a commonly used medication and are often prescribed for people with diabetes to help them manage their condition. This is because having diabetes increases the risk of heart diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.

Using statins doesn’t mean that you’re failing to manage your diabetes. Alongside a healthy lifestyle and diet, this medication can help you manage your condition with more confidence.

Being prescribed with statins

The first time you get your statins prescription can be a bit overwhelming and you might have a lot of questions going through your mind. Unlike most prescriptions, you won't normally have an end date. 

Your doctor will help you to figure out this big life change. You can also speak to someone from our helpline where you can get support over the phone and on our live chat. Looking after how you feel is an important part of managing your diabetes, so don't feel like you have to go through it alone.

As someone living with diabetes, you don't pay for prescriptions on the NHS in England. So make sure you don't get charged for your statins. Prescriptions are free for everybody in the rest of the UK.

Different types of statins 

When you get your prescription, you might notice that statins have different names. That's because there are many different types of statins and brands that provide this medication.

The most common types of statins you might have heard of are:

  • atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • simvastatin (Zocor)
  • rosuvastatin (Crestor).

These are some examples, and you may be prescribed a different statin. 

The right statin for you will depend on factors such as:

  • LDL-cholesterol level
  • risk factors for heart disease
  • tolerance of the medication.

Your doctor will assess which statin is the right one for you and will continue to monitor if the statin prescribed is working well during your check-ups. 

How to take statins

  • Make sure you take your statins as prescribed to help manage your cholesterol levels.
  • If you forget to take them, carry on as normal the next day. Don’t take an extra one to make up for it.
  • Some foods and drinks might interact with statins, for example if you’re taking simvastatin, avoid drinking grapefruit juice. Drink no more than one or two small glasses of grapefruit juice if you are taking atorvastatin. 
  • Remember for overall diabetes management, eating whole fruits and vegetables will reduce your intake of free sugars.
  • If you have any side effects, make sure you talk to your doctor. You can also check the patient information leaflet. Don’t stop taking your medication as your cholesterol might go up again. Your doctor will be able to suggest the best way forward, such as trying a different statin or a lower dose.

Like all medicines, statins can have side effects for some people. You might want to start taking statins at the weekend or during a break from work. That's because if you do have any side effects then you can deal with them in your own time and without extra pressure.

Make sure you check the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine for more information. Statins can sometimes interact with other medicines and this can cause side effects too. Make sure you talk to your doctor about any other drugs you’re taking before you start taking statins. 

Statins should usually be stopped if you are planning a pregnancy or as soon as pregnancy is confirmed. Check with your healthcare team to find out what is appropriate for you.

Can you stop taking statins?

Statins have been used to lower cholesterol for a long time but in recent years, there’s been a lot of controversial debate and news around this medication.

Having questions and worries about a drug you have to take is normal, but try to get your information about medications from reliable resources and if you are worried make sure you always talk to your doctor, nurse or a pharmacist as they’ll be able to help you with this.

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