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Diabetes Knowledge

Smoking and Diabetes - What You Need To Know Today

3/10/2020 by Danica Schneeweiss

Smoking and Diabetes - What You Need To Know Today

Smoking negatively impacts your overall health - most of us have heard that in one form or another for years. But people still smoke, including people with diabetes. We get it. It's a hard habit to kick, especially if you feel you’re already giving up a lot to manage your diabetes.

But smoking poses an even greater risk for serious health problems if you're living with diabetes, and that's no fun. So let's have a real talk, and tackle head-on what smoking while living with diabetes means to YOU and ways you can kick this habit pronto.

Smoking with Diabetes 

As a person living with diabetes, you’re constantly thinking two steps ahead. From deciding which food choices work well in your diet to planning how to better regulate your blood sugar levels - the list goes on and on - simply put, diabetes is time-consuming

But smoking adds a whole new level of care (as well as many risks) that can be especially dangerous for people living with diabetes.  

The risks of developing health problems are higher and the outcomes even more severe for people living with diabetes.  According to the CDC, smokers with diabetes have more complications which include:

  • 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)

How Nicotine Affects You

Nicotine has been linked to higher blood sugar levels (and less predictability if you take insulin), which makes your job of regulating even harder! 

Furthermore, that same CDC article mentioned concluded that smoking can even cause type 2 diabetes:

[S]mokers 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.

On top of all of this, nicotine is also known to harden blood vessels making it more difficult for blood to circulate throughout the body. Proper blood flow is imperative in preventive care for people with diabetes.  

Therefore, we recommend getting a regular foot check-up as part of your preventive care - which is in part to make sure blood is flowing properly to the lower half of your body.  The direct effects of nicotine are counterproductive to healthy blood flow and only cause damage. 

I Have Type 2 Diabetes 

Smoking with type 2 diabetes heightens your risk of cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, this is also the major cause of death for people living with type 2 diabetes

I Have Type 1 Diabetes 

All of the problems associated with smoking coupled with the additional issues for type 2 diabetes is what you can expect.  

Moreover, if you're living with type 1 diabetes your body needs insulin to function. However, research shows that nicotine alters the chemical makeup of cells working within your body, which can result in insulin resistance or put you at risk for low blood sugar levels, meaning more variability. Scary stuff! 

Managing diabetes is a task in and of itself, and adding smoking in the equation complicates this process even further. 

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Are You Looking To Kick The Habit?

Smoking is an addictive habit that has no quick-fix solutions. Like living with diabetes, it takes effort and energy to make good on that new year's resolution to quit smoking - but hey we believe you can do it! Here are some helpful tips that can set you on the right path. 

There is no way to soften the negative effects and health concerns that arise from smoking, and it's okay to ask for help.  

Don't Forget Your Mental Health

Many people smoke to reduce stress in their lives and believe that the act of smoking helps them to be less stressed out. However, recent studies have proven the opposite: 

...instead of helping people to relax, smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation so people smoke in the belief that it reduces stress and anxiety.

This feeling is temporary and does not “reduce anxiety or deal with the underlying causes.”  Diabetes and mental health are important topics that are often linked to smoking. 

One Last Tip

For all of you who like to talk in numbers, we thought this cost of smoking calculator could be helpful in seeing how much money YOU spend on smoking. Maybe this will be the motivation you need to put down that cigarette.

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Danica Schneeweiss

New York admitted attorney, brand consultant and busy mom of 3. Danica helped care for her late father, who lived with Type 1 diabetes almost all of his life. Apart from writing, she showcases diverse kids books bi-weekly on her Instagram @diversekidslit

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