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Diabetes and Smoking

Though seemingly unconnected, diabetes and smoking directly correlate with 30-40% of smokers being more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers.

What is diabetes? Diabetes occurs when the body’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Certain food turns into glucose, a kind of sugar that the body’s cells use for energy. Insulin, which is a hormone created by the pancreas, helps regulate glucose throughout the body’s cells. When the body does not make enough insulin, less glucose gets into the cells and instead builds up in the blood.

Different types of diabetes exist. Type 2 is the most common, 90% of all people with diabetes are Type 2, and is typically adult-onset. Type 2 is potentially reversible if discovered early, treated quickly, and managed through diet. Type 1 diabetes is that which develops in children or adolescents and is irreversible.

People who smoke are more likely than nonsmokers to develop Type 2 diabetes—they are also more likely to have trouble with their body correctly processing insulin dosages, and the more cigarettes smoked, the harder it is to control. Smokers with diabetes also have higher risks for serious health ailments, including:
• Heart and Kidney Disease
• Reduced Blood Flow in the Legs and Feet – resulting in infections, ulcers, and possible amputation
• Retinopathy – an eye disease that can cause blindness
• Peripheral neuropathy – damage to the nerves in the legs, causing numbness, pain, weakness, and poor coordination

Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, the body benefits, whether or not the person has diabetes. Blood pressure drops within that 20 minutes, and oxygen levels increase after 8 hours. After one month of not smoking, ordinary everyday actions and exercising become easier; overall, the body has more energy. Around the one year mark, the risk of Coronary Heart Disease reduces by 50%. After five years, the risk of cancer is reduced by 50%, and stroke risk is to the point of someone who has never smoked.

By stopping smoking it will not only make a person feel better almost immediately, but it may also reduce the chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and the risk of blood clot.

Today is the Great American Smokeout for 2017, while November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Join us in raising awareness of how this addiction can influence long-term health, including diabetes. For additional resource check out our post from last year, “The Great American Smokeout: Providing Resources for Smokers.”

Sources: Diabetes Self Management, CDC.gov, Stop Smoking Center