Local News

New Guidelines Suggest Statins For Diabetics At Risk For Heart Disease

Posted July 23, 2004 2:46 a.m. EDT

— Diabetics learn to keep a close watch on their blood sugar. New guidelines say they need to keep just as close an eye on their cholesterol. Find out what physicians are learning about keeping diabetics from becoming heart patients.

In February, Nathan Woodlief went to the doctor for a stress test and got a big wake-up call.

"It came back abnormal, the EKG along with being diagnosed as a diabetic," Woodlief said.

For a year, Woodlief knew he was a borderline type 2 diabetic. He also had several risk factors for heart disease.

Now, the American College of Physicians says that combination requires immediate statin therapy to lower cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease.

Studies show 80 percent of diabetics will develop heart disease and possibly die from it.

"So, the point is that if the prevalence is that high in the diabetics, we might as well treat them as if they have heart disease," said Dr. Joel Schneider, a cardiologist at WakeMed.

Statins are the mainstay of therapy to reduce LDL, or bad cholesterol, in high-risk heart patients. That includes type 2 diabetics who have one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Those risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity or being overweight, smoking and those 55 years of age or older.

The success of the news guidelines depends on how primary care physicians treat type 2 diabetic patients.

"They should approach the patient as though they have heart disease and consider starting a statin," Schneider said.

Woodlief had successful bypass surgery and a new regimen that includes statin therapy.

"I'd heartily recommend anybody that's having any problems with their cholesterol or diabetes to take the medication. It's done wonders to me," he said.

The new guidelines also call special attention to premenopausal women with type 2 diabetes. Statistics show if they have at least one other risk factor for cardiovascular disease, they are just as much at risk as men.