Smoking and Diabetes

You've probably heard all the grim statistics—a million times over. And even if you don't know all the numbers, most likely you do know that smoking is bad for you. Smoking has a negative effect on every organ of your body. It causes fatal diseases like heart and lung disease, COPD, and cancer. Smoking is even believed to contribute to the development of diabetes.

Problems Caused by Smoking

The thing you might not know is that as bad as smoking is for those without diabetes, it's even worse for those with diabetes. Why is this so? Much of it is because as a diabetic, you've already got a disease that harms many parts of your body. By adding smoking to the picture, you've raised your risk for health complications even more. Consider the following:

Smoking raises your blood sugar.

You already have to work hard to keep your blood sugar in check. Recent research suggests that not only does smoking raise blood sugar, but it also weakens to the body's ability to respond to insulin. Uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to serious diabetic complications, such as problems with your kidneys, heart, and blood vessels. 

Smoking damages your eyes.

People with diabetes have a higher risk of several eye diseases, including cataracts and glaucoma. Poorly controlled diabetes also causes an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy. Smoking can accelerate the development of or worsen diabetic retinopathy, which may eventually lead to blindness.

Smoking causes respiratory diseases.

Smoking directly affects the lungs, causing problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis and emphysema). People with these lung diseases are more at risk for infections such as pneumonia. And if someone with diabetes gets pneumonia, they may be more seriously ill and have a harder time recovering than someone without diabetes.

Smoking causes heart and blood vessel damage.

And so does diabetes. In fact, smokers with diabetes are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes than those diabetics who don't smoke. 

Get the picture? The fact of the matter is that having diabetes makes you at risk for many health problems. Why add even more risks? Going smoke-free will lower your risk of damage to your organs, blood vessels, and nerves. If you recognize the benefits of quitting smoking, you've already taken the first step.

How to Quit Smoking

As for just how to stop smoking, the American Diabetes Association has these suggestions:

Decide what method you'll use to quit.

Many people find that going "cold turkey" is the best way to stop smoking. Others find it easier to quit gradually, decreasing the amount of cigarettes they use each day. And some people use smoking aids, like the nicotine patch or gum, or a prescription medication. Keep in mind that research suggests that it's the nicotine in cigarettes that causes blood sugar elevation, so if you use an aid that contains nicotine, your blood sugar will remain the same as if you were smoking, at least for a while. You might also want to consider smoking cessation counseling, hypnosis, or acupuncture.

Get ready to quit.

Smoking is addictive and it's hard work to quit. It's good to approach your new life as a nonsmoker in the same way you might prepare to do a big project at work. To begin with, make a list of all the reasons that you want to stop smoking. Then set a date for quitting, and share the date with friends and family who can support you. There may even be someone in your life who wants to share your journey! The last step in getting ready to be smoke free is to free yourself of reminders. Toss out the cigarettes as well as your lighter, matches, and so on.

Visit the Smoking Cessation Center to get more tips on ways to quit.

For more information and assistance with quitting, you can call the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services national toll free number, 800-784-8669, or log on to www.smokefree.gov.