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Type 2

Statins May Reduce Chronic Kidney Disease Risk

New research finds that people with type 2 diabetes who took cholesterol-lowering medications had a reduced risk of developing kidney disease.

People with type 2 diabetes over the age of 40 who begin taking a statin may be less likely to develop kidney disease, finds new research.

The study, which included nearly 20,000 participants, looked at people with type 2 diabetes who started taking statins after a hospital admission. The findings come from data collected at 19 different medical centers across China over a span of 21 years. 

Study participants were divided into two groups (those taking statins and those who weren’t) with similar characteristics like age, sex, and body mass index. After an average of 19 months, participants were assessed for new-onset kidney disease, defined as an eGFR of less than 60 and the presence of protein in the urine – both markers of kidney dysfunction. 

Results found that participants who began a statin medication (like atorvastatin or rosuvastatin) when they joined the study were less likely to develop kidney disease. Additionally, statin-taking participants with the lowest levels of cholesterol also had the lowest risk of developing kidney disease.

While we know that statins are helpful for maintaining heart health in people with diabetes, the role of cholesterol-lowing medication in preventing kidney disease is not yet as well understood. The findings of this new study present evidence that statins may be helpful for not only maintaining cardiovascular health but also kidney function in people with diabetes. 

What is chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD), also called nephropathy (“nephro-” meaning kidney and “-pathy” meaning disorder), is a common complication of long-standing diabetes. Diabetes can damage the kidney’s blood vessels and the ability to filter blood in your body, leading to decreased kidney function. 

It’s estimated that about one in three people with diabetes will develop CKD. It can take several years for kidney disease to develop, but if left unaddressed, CKD can progress to kidney failure, the need for dialysis, or a kidney transplant. Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure in the United States. 

What are statins?

Statins are medications that lower the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides (a type of fat) in your bloodstream. 

Over time, too much cholesterol or triglycerides (known together as “lipids”) can accumulate in blood vessels causing them to narrow. This makes it harder for your body to circulate the oxygen and nutrients that it needs. 

Because statins lower the total amount of lipids in your bloodstream, the medications help prevent heart disease and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke, which people with diabetes are at an increased risk for.

Should I start taking a statin medication?

Current guidelines from the American Diabetes Association on statin use are largely dependent on a person’s age and based on research related to heart health – not kidney disease. 

Generally, if you’re under age 40 and don’t have high cholesterol, statins are not recommended. Over age 40, a statin regimen is recommended for all people with diabetes. Other reasons to start a statin, such as high blood pressure and increased BMI, also factor in. Everyone is different, so it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional about the best treatment plan for you.

What other ways can I protect my kidneys?

  • Keep your blood glucose in your desired goal range.
  • Keep your blood pressure within your target range.
  • Restrict the amount of protein that you eat.

Visit a healthcare provider annually who can check your kidney function and proteins in your urine.

Learn more about preventing diabetes-related kidney disease here: