Diabetes and Smoking

Smoking can cause a number of diabetes complications
Smoking can cause a number of diabetes complications

The information that smoking is bad for us is everywhere, but for diabetics, smoking can be even more damaging.

Beyond the usual reasons, why shouldn’t I smoke if I have diabetes?

Smoking is now proven to be an independent risk factor for diabetes, and amongst diabetics it increases the risk of complications.

Diabetes complications already include heart disease, stroke and circulation problems. Smoking adds to the risk of developing all of these things.

In some cases, smoking can double the likelihood of these conditions, as well as doubling the chances of suffering from kidney problems and erectile dysfunction.

For type 2 diabetics, the major cause of death is cardiovascular disease.

How does smoking increase my heart disease risk as a diabetic?

Smoking and diabetes both increase the risk of heart disease in very similar ways, and so when combined, they greatly exacerbate the chances of suffering a heart related condition such as a heart attack or stroke.

Both high levels of glucose in the blood and smoking damage the walls of the arteries in such a way that fatty deposits can build up much easier. As this occurs, the blood vessels narrow and make circulating blood much harder.

When this happens to the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood and therefore oxygen) a heart attack can occur. Similarly, a stroke is when not enough blood can get to the brain, and so anything that may limit blood flow increases the risks of a stroke.

High blood glucose levels also have this effect on the blood vessels and blood flow, so if you smoke when you have diabetes, you are putting yourself at a much greater risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

I am not diabetic, but I am a smoker. Could smoking lead me to develop diabetes?

Smoking is also proven to be a risk factor for insulin resistance. Patients who are insulin resistant cannot use their bodily insulin properly.

Together with genetics and obesity, smoking is one of the risk factors for insulin resistance. Insulin resistance often leads to diabetes.

I am diabetic and depressed. I enjoy smoking, surely things can’t get much worse?

Unfortunately, smoking amongst diabetics has been shown in some studies to increase the risk of a premature death.

Smoking has been found to trigger fatalities through reductions in circulation and damaged blood vessels.

What other diabetes complications will smoking affect?

Further diabetes complications that have been proven to be aggravated by smoking include diabetic nephropathy, albuminuria.

There are links between smoking and retinopathy, although these are less evident than the cardiovascular risks.

Smoking is certainly a major risk factor for both the development and progression of diabetic neuropathy.

What benefits could giving up smoking give to me as a diabetic?

Stopping smoking reduces the risk of developing a major diabetes-related complication.

Many diabetics do not stop because of concerns over weight gain. Some studies have proved that the benefits of giving up smoking as a diabetic actually outweigh any negative effects caused by weight gain.

I can’t stop smoking, and I’m worried that it is exacerbating my diabetes, what should I do?

Your healthcare professional or healthcare team will be able to give you free advice. Taking advice on stopping smoking should be a matter of routine for all diabetics. If you are concerned about weight gain, face the issue by discussing it with your health care team.

Cost of smoking

Calculate the cost of smoking with our Cost of Smoking Calculator to see how much smoking is costing you.

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