What Is Diabetes?
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 (a kind of sugar) for the body’s cells to use for energy. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin very well. Less glucose gets into the cells and instead builds up in the blood.This leads to various risks and health issues affecting most major organs of human body.
How Is Smoking Related to Diabetes?
We now know that smoking causes type 2 diabetes. In fact, smokers are 30–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers. And people with diabetes who smoke are more likely than nonsmokers to have trouble with insulin dosing and with controlling their disease. The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk for type 2 diabetes.No matter what type of diabetes you have, smoking makes your diabetes harder to control.
If you have diabetes and you smoke, you are more likely to have serious health problems from diabetes. Smokers with diabetes have higher risks for serious complications, including:
- Heart and kidney disease
- Poor blood flow in the legs and feet that can lead to infections, ulcers, and possible amputation (removal of a body part by surgery, such as toes or feet)
- Retinopathy (an eye disease that can cause blindness)
- Peripheral neuropathy (damaged nerves to the arms and legs that causes numbness, pain, weakness, and poor coordination).
- Many of the combined health effects of smoking and diabetes may make it more difficult to make healthful lifestyle choices.
If you are a smoker with diabetes, quitting smoking will benefit your health right away. People with diabetes who quit have better control of their blood sugar levels.
How to lower the risk of smoking and diabetes
There is no safe way to smoke, particularly with diabetes. The best way to lower the risk from smoking is to quit. Or if quitting is not possible, to dramatically cut down.
The following strategies may lower the risks associated with smoking and diabetes:
- Exercise may lower the risk of lung cancer in people who smoke. It also supports good glucose metabolism, and can reduce the chance of obesity, which is another risk factor for diabetes.
- Healthful eating can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Fiber intake is especially important for people with diabetes, because fiber helps lower blood sugar.
- Taking diabetes medications as prescribed. People with uncontrolled diabetes are more likely to experience diabetes complications. Smoking compounds these risks.
- Cutting back on smoking. There’s no safe number of cigarettes to smoke, but heavy smokers tend to suffer more extensive health problems.
How to make this change?
- To lower your risk of complications, quit smoking and avoid tobacco products. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Smoking is addictive and can be very hard to quit.
- Start by making a list of all the reasons you want to stop smoking.
- Then set a quit date to begin your smoke-free lifestyle.
- Share that date with friends and family members who can support you and help hold you accountable. Some of them may even want to join you on your journey!
- Many people find that quitting cold turkey is the best way to stop. You might find it easier to quit gradually by decreasing the amount of cigarettes you smoke each day.
Whatever method you choose, your doctor can provide tips to help you along the way. They can also prescribe medications or recommend over-the-counter aids, such nicotine patches or gum. They may also encourage you to try smoking cessation counseling.
Remember, nicotine raises your blood sugar. If you use smoking cessation aids that contain nicotine, such as nicotine patches or gum, your blood sugar will remain elevated. Over time, you can wean yourself off of these aids and enjoy the benefits of lower blood sugar.
Having diabetes raises your risk of many health problems. Why add fuel to the fire by smoking? Avoiding tobacco products lowers your risk of complications from diabetes. It can help you limit the damage to your organs, blood vessels, and nerves. This can help you live a longer and healthier life.
If you currently smoke, recognizing the benefits of quitting is an important first step. Now it’s time to commit to a change. Make an appointment with your doctor to learn about the treatment and support options that can help you quit for good.
-Dr Prerna Gaur