Past research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes have at least twice the risk of developing coronary heart disease as those without diabetes. And once diabetics develop heart disease, their prognosis is worse than non-diabetics. Therefore, doing what it takes to avoid heart disease is important. This includes not only keeping the blood sugar within normal limits, but maintaining healthy cholesterol levels as well.
Ideally, a low-fat diet alone will lower cholesterol, but when this fails, patients should take cholesterol-lowering medication, according to a study at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio.
The study examined data gathered by a Scandanavian trial that investigated the ability of simvastatin (Zocor) to lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks in diabetics.
The study involved three groups of patients: 483 people with type 2 diabetes; 678 people with elevated blood sugars but not full-blown diabetes; and 3,237 people with normal blood sugars. All of the patients, however, had elevated cholesterol levels (from 212 milligrams to 309 milligrams), and they all received either 20 milligrams of simvastatin daily or placebo.
If patients taking simvastatin did not achieve lower cholesterols, the dose was increased to 40 milligrams.
In patients with high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease, the simvastatin reduced their risk of heart attacks, death from heart disease and cardiac arrest by 42 percent when compared to the placebo group. They also reduced the risk of undergoing vascular procedures, such as bypass by 48 percent.
In patients with high cholesterol, heart disease, and an elevated blood sugar without diabetes, simvastatin lowered the risk of major coronary events (such as heart attacks) by 38 percent.
The study also demonstrated that simvastatin reduced the risk of death from heart disease by more than half in people with high cholesterol and heart disease who were considered to be at risk for developing diabetes.