Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is strongly linked to diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease, has become increasingly common around the world, especially in Western nations whose diets contain high levels of fat. In the U.S., NAFLD has become the most common form of chronic liver disease, with estimates that it affects more than 30 percent of the population, or about 100 million people.

Statins have been shown to be highly effective in lowering cholesterol and are frequently prescribed for individuals with diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors. But statins can also affect the liver, so when patients with diabetes show evidence of abnormal liver tests, many primary care doctors and cardiologists will automatically refrain from using these medications. This reluctance is unfortunate, though, because the most common cause of morbidity and mortality for NAFLD is actually cardiovascular disease — not liver disease.

In a blog post on Becker’s Hospital Review, Dr. Sonal Kumar, assistant professor of medicine and the director of clinical hepatology at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, and her colleagues discuss the potential impact of not prescribing statins to the millions of diabetics who also suffer from liver disease.

Dr. Kumar presented data from the study “Do patients with abnormal liver tests and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease get statins even when indicated?” at Digestive Disease Week® on Sunday, June 3 at 9:30 a.m. EDT, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.