Statin Use Improves Life Expectancy in Diabetes

Cholesterol-lowering statins could allow patients with type 2 diabetes and heart disease to live longer, according to a new study that appears online in Diabetes Care.

Researchers found that those taking statins at the beginning of the study were 50% more likely to be alive at the end of the study, compared to those who did not take the cholesterol-lowering drugs. 

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“While the focus of this study was not on the beneficial effects of cholesterol-lowering medication per se, this investigation did observe that use of cholesterol-lowering medication was protective against mortality in individuals with type 2 diabetes who had a high burden of coronary artery calcified plaque,” says study co-author Amanda Cox, PhD, of the Center for Diabetes Research at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC.

She and her colleagues examined modifiable cardiovascular disease risk factors and risk for mortality in a subset of patients from the Diabetes Heart Study who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease, based on their burden of coronary artery calcified plaque (more than 1,000mg).

They studied data from 371 study participants and assessed contributors to all-cause mortality after an average of 8.2 years of follow-up. During that time, 153 of the patients died and 218 survived. The researchers compared differences in known risk factors for cardiovascular disease between the living and deceased participants.

The use of cholesterol-lowering statins at the baseline exam was the only modifiable risk factor they identified to be protective against mortality. Deceased participants had a longer duration of type 2 diabetes and reduced use of cholesterol-lowering medications.

These findings highlight the importance of statin use in patients with type 2 diabetes who have a high risk of cardiovascular disease. “This was a retrospective study and guidelines for statin use among individuals with type 2 diabetes have since changed; however, at the time of data collection, only 60% of the sample was using cholesterol-lowering medications,” Cox says.    

The researchers have plans for further investigation, which include providing an updated assessment of cholesterol-lowering medication use among high-risk type 2 diabetes patients as well as consideration of additional biomarkers that may be useful in risk assessment.

“The findings from this study indicate that even among type 2 diabetes patients identified to be at high risk of adverse outcome, modifiable risk factors exist that should be targeted for early and continued intervention,” Cox says. “Ongoing review by primary care providers is crucial for effective patient management.” 

Colleen Mullarkey


Cox AJ, Hsu F, Freedman BI, Herrington DM, Criqui MH, Carr JJ, et al. Contributors to mortality in high-risk diabetic patients in the Diabetes Heart Study. Diabetes Care. 2014 Jul 2. pii: DC_140081. [Epub ahead of print].