Why Older Women Don’t Need Statins

| April 7, 2017

As I have reported several times (see here, here and here), the medical establishment’s love affair with cholesterol-lowering statins shows little sign of ending, despite public disquiet about the side effects of these drugs and mounting evidence that they actually do little to prevent people dying from heart disease.

It is well known that taking statins can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Now, an Australian study has confirmed earlier findings that this dangerous side effect is particularly common in older women who are prescribed the drugs.1 The study revealed that almost half of all women in their late 70s and 80s were being prescribed statins. Those taking them faced a 33 per cent higher chance of developing diabetes, which increased to more than 50 per cent for women taking higher doses.

This seems just plain crazy to me, since type 2 diabetes is itself a significant risk factor for heart disease! As the authors of this study pointed out, most statin trials involve middle-aged men, not postmenopausal women. But the few that looked at both sexes show women react quite differently from men to these drugs – and the evidence makes me question whether statins should be prescribed for older women at all.

A large meta-analysis, published last year, showed that compared with men, women who take statins are more likely to suffer serious side effects, including type 2 diabetes, crippling muscle pain and liver damage.2 And that could be just the tip of the iceberg. A well-designed study from Stanford University in California shows that postmenopausal women taking statins also have a greater risk of skin cancer.3

Horrendous side effects – but no reduction in cardiovascular risks

Added to that, these drugs could mess with women’s brains more than they do with men’s. There have been several reports of statins causing memory loss and reduced cognitive function, mainly in women.4 And, while statins lower testosterone and make men more docile, in postmenopausal women they can increase feelings of anger and aggression.5

Compared with these very real risks, statins appear to have almost no benefits for older women. A major trial, involving 6,800 women over the age of 60 with high cholesterol levels, found that statins led to no significant reductions in heart attacks, strokes or deaths.6

Even when the additional cardiovascular risks of type 2 diabetes are part of the picture, statins do little to help. In another recent study, the additional risk of heart disease due to type 2 diabetes in postmenopausal women was 42 per cent in those not taking statins and 39 per cent in those who were taking them, so the drugs made hardly any difference.7

Faced with evidence like this, it is difficult to understand why many doctors still feel that the benefits of statins outweigh the risks for postmenopausal women. As I have said in the past, statins should be a last-resort therapy for those at the highest risk, not a mass medication for healthy people. For postmenopausal women, their only role appears to be to increase the burden of disease and accelerate the effects of ageing.

In my next blog post, I’ll tell you how German scientists have discovered one reason why having diabetes raises the risk of a heart attack.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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1. Jones M, Tett S, Peeters GM, Mishra GD, Dobson A. New-onset diabetes after statin exposure in elderly women: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Drugs Aging. 2017; 34(3):203-209.

2. Plakogiannis R, Arif SA. Women versus men: is there equal benefit and safety from statins? Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2016; 18(2):6.

3. Wang A, Stefanic ML, Kapphahn K et al. Relation of statin use with non-melanoma skin cancer: prospective results from the Women’s Health Initiative. Br J Cancer. 2016; 114(3):314-320.

4. King DS, Wilburn AJ, Wofford MR, Harrell TK, Lindley BJ, Jones DW. Cognitive impairment associated with atorvastatin and simvastatin. Pharmacotherapy. 2003; 23(12):1663-1667.

5. Golomb BA, Dimsdale JE, Koslik HJ et al. Statin effects on aggression: results from the UCSD statin study, a randomized control trial. PLoS One. 2015; 10(7):e0124451.

6. Mora S, Glynn RJ, Hsia J et al. Statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular events in women with elevated high-sensitivity C-reactive protein or dyslipidemia: results from the Justification for the Use of Statins in Prevention: An Intervention Trial Evaluating Rosuvastatin (JUPITER) and meta-analysis of women from primary prevention trials. Circulation. 2010;121(9):1069-1077.

7. Ma Y, Persuitte GM, Andrews C et al. Impact of incident diabetes on atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease according to statin use history among postmenopausal women. Eur J Epidemiol. 2016; 31(8):747-761.

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Category: Diabetes Risks

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