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Man holding his finger like a smoking gun

Diabetes and smoking are similar because they both affect many of the body’s major organs. When combined, diabetes and smoking can wreak havoc on the body and cause serious complications.

A Cloudy Situation

Smoking is now considered a cause of type 2 diabetes. In fact, cigarette smokers are 30 to 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers are. Additionally, people with diabetes who smoke typically experience more difficulties with insulin dosing and overall management of their condition. The more cigarettes smoked, the higher the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Smoking can also further cloud an already complicated diabetic condition. It can cause the body to be more insulin resistant, which can lead to higher blood sugar levels. In diabetic patients, smoking can cause serious health problems to develop including

  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Eye disease (cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy)
  • Peripheral neuropathy (damaged nerves to the arms and legs)
  • Poor blood flow in the legs and feet that lead to infections, ulcers, and potentially amputation

Furthermore, smoking directly affects the lungs and can lead to several respiratory diseases. Individuals with these diseases have a higher risk of developing lung infections, which can be especially dangerous for those with diabetes. These illnesses can raise blood sugar levels and cause people to have a harder time recovering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with diabetes are approximately three times more likely to die from pneumonia than those without diabetes.

Clearing the Air

close up of hands breaking a cigarette, quit smokingIt’s never too late to quit smoking. Studies show that an approximate 70% of all smokers want to quit. While challenging, quitting is possible and can be beneficial at any time. Whether an individual has type 2 diabetes or not, the sooner they quit, the quicker the benefit. Research has shown insulin becomes more effective at lowering blood sugar levels as early as 8 weeks after a person stops smoking.

Individuals who are serious about getting their diabetes under control, or looking to stop smoking for other health reasons, should consult their health care team about options. Doctors may suggest a mixture of treatments, including counseling and nicotine replacement therapy. Additionally, several online resources, hotlines, apps, and chat services are dedicated to addressing smoking cessation. Alabama tobacco users can get free help by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Quitting smoking may take more than one try, even several attempts, but it can clear the air and way for a healthier path forward.

To learn more about this topic or to attend a DEEP class about diabetes, contact your local Extension office to speak with an agent in Human Nutrition, Diet and Health.

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