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Smoking and Diabetes: An Unwelcome Combination
By the Quitter's Circle Staff
November 28, 2017

Smoking and Diabetes: An Unwelcome Combination

Sugar isn’t only something that makes food taste sweet – it’s also produced in your body by breaking down food into a type of sugar called glucose. Diabetes is a group of diseases in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Most of the food a person eats is turned into glucose for the body’s cells to use for energy. A hormone called insulin helps regulate glucose. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use the insulin very well. What you may not know is that smoking cigarettes can cause type 2 diabetes – and both smoking and diabetes are independent risk factors for heart disease.

What’s more, if you’re a smoker who develops diabetes, you may have a harder time controlling the disease than nonsmokers. In turn, your risk of developing complications also increases. That’s why, if you smoke, it’s important to know the effects that tobacco will have on your health, especially if you already have a medical condition such as diabetes. The best way to improve your health, and manage your illness is to be informed and make a plan to quit smoking.

Read on to learn some key facts about how smoking can be harmful to those who have diabetes and what you can do to help prevent further damage to your health.

  1. Smoking can cause diabetes - Smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers. Why? Smoking increases inflammation in your body and causes oxidative stress – a condition where chemicals from cigarette smoke mix with the oxygen in your body and damage your cells. Research has shown that there is a strong link between inflammation and oxidative stress and an increased risk of diabetes. The good news is that if you quit smoking, you decrease your chances of developing diabetes.
  2. Smoking increases your blood sugar - It’s already hard enough for people with diabetes to control the sugar levels in their blood. So when diabetics are exposed to nicotine, the addictive chemical in cigarette smoke, insulin is not as effective. That’s serious because insulin helps to lower your blood sugar levels. It also means you may need to watch your blood sugar levels more closely, because if you can’t manage your blood sugar, you’re at risk for more serious complications. When you quit, you give yourself a better chance at managing your blood sugar levels.
  3. Your risk of diabetes-related complications is higher - You may already know that diabetes can cause a host of serious health problems. But did you realize that smokers with the disease increase their risk of developing certain complications? Those related illnesses include: 
  • Heart and kidney disease. Heart disease is responsible for more than 65 percent of deaths in patients with diabetes.
  • Poor circulation of the blood in your legs and feet. This can cause infections, ulcers, and even amputation.
  • Damage to the eyes that can cause blindness called retinopathy.
  • Damage to the nerves in your arms and legs, leading to numbness, pain, weakness, and poor coordination.

Don’t delay. The benefits of quitting smoking start within 24 hours of becoming smokefree and continue throughout the rest of your journey. Quitting can also help lower your risk of developing other diseases caused by smoking, such as COPD.

For smokers with diabetes, one of the most important thing you can do for your health is stop smoking. Talk to a healthcare provider about creating a Quit Plan that takes any conditions you may have, such as diabetes, into account. Then, you may be able to enjoy the many benefits of a smokefree life!