What are the risks of smoking?

You’ve probably heard the grim statistics a million times over. Even if you don’t know all the numbers, you likely know that smoking is bad for your health. It has a negative effect on every organ in your body. It raises your risk of potentially fatal diseases, such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and many types of cancer.

As bad as smoking is for the average person, it’s even worse if you have diabetes. You already have a condition that affects many parts of your body. When you add smoking to the mix, it raises your risk of health complications even more.

If you have diabetes, you have to work hard enough already to keep your blood sugar in check. Smoking can make that task even more difficult. Smoking may make your body more resistant to insulin, which can lead to higher blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to serious complications from diabetes, including problems with your kidneys, heart, and blood vessels.

Like diabetes, smoking also damages your cardiovascular system. This double-burden can be lethal. At least 68 percent of adults age 65 and older with diabetes die from heart disease, reports the American Heart Association. Another 16 percent die from stroke. If you have diabetes, you’re two to four times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than people without the condition.

Smoking directly affects your lungs and can lead to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases. People with these diseases are at higher risk of developing lung infections, such as pneumonia. These infections can be especially dangerous when you have diabetes. You might get sicker than you otherwise would and have a harder time recovering. Being sick also raises blood sugar levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with diabetes are about three times more likely to die from pneumonia than those without.

People with diabetes also have a higher risk of several eye diseases, including cataracts and glaucoma. Poorly controlled diabetes can also lead to an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy. Smoking can accelerate the development of diabetic retinopathy and make it worse. This can eventually lead to blindness.

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 or alternative treatments, such as hypnosis or acupuncture.

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.

For more information and help, call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ toll free support line (1-800-784-8669) or log on to www.smokefree.gov.

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.