test tube of blood, LDL cholesterol blood, rosuvastatin, high LDL cholesterol

Statin medications are used to lower cholesterol because that is considered a pillar of lowering the risk for a heart attack. While people likely to suffer a heart attack generally welcome the protection, others may weigh the complications from a statin drug against its potential benefits. One reader was very disappointed to develop a number of side effects, including elevated blood sugar, after taking rosuvastatin (Crestor).

Side Effects from Rosuvastatin:

Q. I had no problems with my blood sugar until I started taking rosuvastatin. The drug caused body aches and unexplained abdominal pain. I stopped taking it and felt much better. But my doctor said because of my borderline cholesterol I had to take statins.

After a year of taking statins my cholesterol levels are completely normal, but I have diabetes. My blood sugar is 216. I have body aches, leg cramps and extreme fatigue. Could the statins be responsible?

Rosuvastatin and Diabetes:

A. Statins like rosuvastatin or simvastatin can trigger diabetes (Current Atherosclerosis Reports, Oct. 11, 2017). Consequently, the benefits and risks should be considered carefully in each individual case. Rosuvastatin may also lead to stomach ache, muscle pain and weakness, just as you experienced. Many readers also complain of leg cramps.

There is significant debate about whether doctors prescribe statins too freely. Experts also disagree about the risks of diabetes from drugs like atorvastatin, simvastatin and other statins (Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, Oct. 2016). This warrants a serious discussion with your physician.

Learn More:

Our Guides to Cholesterol Control & Heart Health and Managing Diabetes offer other options for helping deal with these health problems. We have been concerned about this adverse effect of statins for years. Here is a previous reader’s question:

Q. I have taken a number of statins to help control cholesterol and am currently on simvastatin. Over the years my blood sugar levels started to climb despite my efforts to eat a healthy diet and exercise.

My doctor recently diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes and prescribed metformin. It is giving me awful stomach pain, gas and diarrhea.

Now I am beginning to wonder whether the statins have caused my diabetes. My doctor says no, but I have read that they can. Maybe if I could lower my cholesterol without a statin, I wouldn’t need metformin to get my blood sugar under control. Do you have any recommendations?

Lowering Cholesterol Without Statins Is Possible:

A. There is growing recognition that statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs can raise blood sugar, especially at higher doses (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 22/29, 2011; The Lancet, Feb. 27, 2010; Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, Aug. 2018). Some people may be more susceptible to this complication.

It may be possible to control your cholesterol with different drugs or with changes in your diet. Foods that can be helpful include pomegranates, walnuts, fish and olive oil. Supplements such as red yeast rice (which contains naturally derived statins in low doses) or psyllium may help. Avoiding high-carb foods often lowers triglycerides, cholesterol and blood sugar.

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  1. Sara
    Fayetteville, NC

    Judith, I’m with you regarding the drug industry and doctor profits. Seems I read something to the effect that some do. Just cannot remember where I read it, nor when….old age creeping up!

  2. Linda

    I take care of a friend Since she started dialysis the Dr. has put her on a statin without telling her she needs to take Co-Q10. She has developed a bad cough, I called and let them know it was getting worse, and told the nurse that I had heard statins could cause this dry cough and it started within weeks after she started taking it. I was told that was not a side affect.

    I told my friend to quit taking it and see if it made a difference. Well the cough is gone after 4 days and have since found out that her chelosterol was 162 and they put her on it because she has low blood pressure and it’s a precaution I’m not sure what it’s a precaution for I’m starting to wonder if these doctors know what their doing, or if they even care.

    • SARA

      Linda, after reading in the wonderful People’s Pharmacy Newsletters, many, many doctors just do not know anything about the drugs they prescribe! I am very blessed to have a G.P. who believes in many of the older medications which do not have so many side effects (no she is not old enough to retire, she is just SMART! and cares). At one time, my cholesterol was borderline and she told me what foods to avoid and to eat a healthy diet and we’d check it later. It became lower and thankfully, I never had to take any medication. Too many doctors should subscribe to this newsletter!!! It’s just so very, very informative and educational!!!

  3. Shane

    A few years ago, even though my cholesterol numbers were not far out of normal range, the Dr. said that research showed there were other benefits to be gained by taking a statin. He didn’t say what those benefits were. Right away my blood sugar started rising and w/i a few months I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the 130+ range. So far, my A1C is good. I check my blood sugar daily and am considering cutting back on the 20 MG of Prevastatin, maybe halving the dose, to see what happens. No use having a conversation with the doctor about this as it seems the doctors are locked in to what pharmaceutical companies tell them their research shows, and they control what is taught in medical schools.

  4. mary

    So what is the ”new” safe number for cholesterol?
    Keep reading about keto and that cholesterol does not matter if the HDL is high and if the equation is high. More confusion.

    • Terry Graedon

      The idea is that there is no one magic number; cholesterol numbers should be looked at in context of all the risk factors, including HDL, triglycerides, smoking, history, size of particles, etc.

  5. Judith

    I have been on 80mg of Atorvastatin for at least 10 years or more. I don’t experience any side effects but my doctor is always watching my blood sugar levels. I have a sweet tooth and love bread so I thought maybe this was the cause in the rise.

    After reading these articles it makes me wonder if I really need the cholesterol drug.

    I’m concerned that the doctors are too true friendly with the pharmaceutical businesses and prescribe these drugs for a profit.
    I would be interested to get your opinion on this.

  6. Tommy H

    My doctor has changed me to Repatha, will no in three months if it working, the cost may kill me , 14,000.00 a year, my cost is 400.00 each month for 2 shots monthly.

    I remember a cardiologist on your program several years ago said he believe in the cholesterol drug , never has his cholesterol checked.

  7. David K

    I have not been able to find an article about the mechanism statins cause diabetes and muscle pain.

    Flaxseed meal absorbs cholesterol in the gut like cholestyramine, but is cheaper and does not cause constipation. My last total cholesterol was 162. Flaxseed and oatmeal are stool softeners and increase bulk.

  8. Dwight
    Mukilteo, WA

    Can you stop taking statins cold turkey or should you wean yourself off it?

  9. Pam

    Donating blood lowered my cholesterol from 218 to 183. I found a study on the internet suggesting that but recently was asked to find the study. I found tons of articles why donating blood “doesn’t” work but it sure worked for me. I’m now a regular donor.

  10. cpmty

    METFORMIN reduces B12 vitamin, about Vitamin D, and now I find out that HBP & cholesterol meds reducedcpmty CoQ10 ? I am glad I read your articles and comments. I learn so much. Thank you.

  11. Kat

    My doctor switched me to Rosuvastatin at the beginning of the year, presumably because it would work better in lowering my cholesterol and be less stressful on my body (his words). I had been taking 200 mg of CO-Q10 and 250 mg of magnesium with my former statin, which worked well to control nightly leg cramps. Almost immediately after starting Rosuvastatin, the nightly leg cramps returned. I’ve increased my CO-Q10 to 300 mg, which has taken care of the problem, but it was very painful for a couple of weeks. And BTW, CO-Q10 is not cheap! My last fasting glucose was 89, so still good there, but at 69, I’m beginning to wonder if the statin is really necessary. It’s my only med besides levothyroxin for low thyroid.

  12. Duke
    Buffalo NY

    Thank you for your recent news item on rovustatin. A decades-long user of that drug following two CABG’s over 30 years apart, I experience more and more keenly the symptoms listed in both the question and answer (except the stomach pain) as I approach my 87th birthday. And I have just now written to my PCP about a possible connection.

  13. Joseph
    Houston, TX

    I’ve tried several different statin medications. They’ve helped to lower my borderline cholesterol numbers a little, but each statin caused serious pain in my legs. None of my doctors warned me of this possible side effect, so I was at a loss for years about the cause. I am on Livalo now, and the side effects are tolerable. I honestly and seriously believe that the other statins were directly responsible for permanently damaging my leg muscles. I can’t understand why physicians still push these drugs when the reported side effects are so damaging and prevalent, other than they do it for possible financial gain. I’ve had several medical practitioners tell me that statins can be a total waste for many people. I’ve lost almost total confidence in and respect for the medical community as a result of my experience.

    • Kathy

      That’s a lot of pain to go through just to lower your borderline cholesterol “a little”!

      Everyone should insist on having an 8-12 week blood test to see just how much and how well the statin is actually helping. Could be better to just cut triglycerides, the fat in the blood.

  14. Debbie
    Weatogue, CT

    My parents are good evidence of statin issues. My Mom has no diabetes in her family. She was out in statins and developed diabetes.

    My dad had a heart attack around 65 and was out in statins. His cholesterol numbers are always good. But he recently had a mild heart attack. He had blockages and a blood clot that became hard and totally blocked his vein.

    So reducing those cholesterol numbers doesn’t reduce your risk of having a heart attack. It seems the medical field puts too much importance on cholesterol numbers. When I think the triglycerides and other numbers are more important. I couldn’t take statins for my cholesterol. I had the leg pain, fatigue and weakness. I refuse to take them. I think having diabetes is a bigger risk.

  15. Dallee

    I also was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes after being on Crestor. As I learned, I am so sensitive that I also have the negative reactions you mention to Red Yeast, which is a natural and weaker sister to statins. Had I any idea that permanent diabetes was a possible side effect, I would have tried the Red Yeast first as a trial.

    One other approach to high cholesterol, if you have low Vitamin D levels, is to increase your dosage of D and make sure you take it with a meal containing fat. That can help normalize your cholesterol levels.

  16. JD

    I’ve been on Rosuvastatin for about a year and a half, now. I suffer from terrible fatigue; my body is so tired, but my mind is still awake….I often go to bed and lay there awake for hours. Part of my sleep deprivation is caused by the crampy feeling in my legs. Just about three or four months ago, I started getting these awful pains in my stomach area…particularly right after waking up each morning. My doctor hasn’t been able to explain the pains; I am definitely going to ask her about the Rosuvastatin!

  17. Rick
    Lewiston, ME

    When you take a statin drug, you not only affect cholesterol production of your body but also significantlly reduce Co-Q-10 production. Not all MD’s will tell patients to supplement with Co-Q-take in regular form or Ubiquinol (easier absorption). Should help with the pains

  18. Uffe Ravnskov
    Lund, Sweden

    A relevant question is whether we should lower our cholesterol at all because in an analysis of 19 studies published in British Medical Journal two years ago we have documented that elderly people (above the age of 60) with high level of the “bad” LDL-cholesterol live the longest.
    Our paper was criticised by the statin advocates in more than 100 newspapers all over the world, but none of them were able to point at a study showing the opposite

  19. Carla

    I am prescribed Zocor, 20 mg. For about 15 years. Two years ago I was diagnosed with prediabetes, with fasting at 111. About 3 months ago, I stopped because I read it can increase sugar levels in some people. Guess what? My sugar levels are back to normal, with the latest being 93. So I see my dr soon and will be having a serious conversation about managing cholesterol without a statin.

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