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.

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Your Comments
I'm 31 yrs old with diabetes. I smoke and drink alcohol, take metformin 1000mg and glipizide 20mg. what are the risks?
Posted by natasha, Fremont on Friday, June 15, 2012
I am a 8 weeks diabetic Type 2. My sugar level was 15.5 then and BP slightly on the high side. I was smoking and drinking beer a little too much before. I was a little overweight (170cm, 72kg). Little exercise. I went on 500mg metformin (once a day) when diagnosed, followed a strict diet (carb control) and exercise (brisk walking 30 min in gym). Stopped smoking and drinking completely. Within a week, sugar level is constantly below 5.5, and my BP is normal now. I am doing fine with my new lifestyle. I lost 7kg and happy with that. And waist size is down 4 inches.
Posted by diabetic chan, Malaysia on Thursday, April 19, 2012
Smoking helps me relax. I don't have problems controlling my diabetes. I'm type 1 but my sugars are generally good. This seems like a lot of scaremongering to me.
Posted by J on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I have been a diabetic for 2 years and currently weigh 10 stone. Prior to Diabeties I was 12 stone although my levels are now stable.
Posted by david, southampton on Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I am 28 years old and have been diabetic for 25 years. I smoked for 10 years and recently gave up with the help of nicotine patches. I feel healthier and my diabetes control is better too. Giving up smoking is only easy if you really want to give up.
Posted by kmoore, scotland on Saturday, July 23, 2011
I started smoking when I was about 25. Just socially. I now smoke a pipe once a week. I wouldn't say I'm hooked, its just something to do while I listen to music. But I have already noticed my circulation suffering. (numbness in my hands when elevated) and I'm a marathon runner. I'm not scared enough to stop.
Posted by raymond, sheffield, uk on Saturday, July 16, 2011
The easiest way to quit smoking is: Step 1: Just Stop Step 2: When your brain tells you you need it... say no Step 3: After 2 days you have told your brain that you won't smoke and it will keep quiet Step 4: Brain will keep on reminding you about smoking just say "NO". You have to do this for one year to even tell that you quit. Remember, there is no harm in cheating sometimes, this doesn't mean that you are not successful in quitting. The guilt when you cheat will make you quit eventually.
Posted by Ravi, India on Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I am diabetic type 1 and I am smoking too since 6 years. I am 23 yrs old, tell me how to quit ?
Posted by marwan qureshi, Dammam on Friday, June 10, 2011
Um diabetes type two and I smoke but I don't know how to stop. Please help?
Posted by miss lee, florida jhb on Thursday, June 09, 2011
I have smoked since I was 13 years old. I am now 58 years old. Maybe I'm worth a studio flat in smoking costs. I am diabetic type 2. I am also transsexual. There is a likelihood I will not be able to get reassignment therapy, while I am smoking [hormones etc]. I am very unhappy with the situation. I am going to quit at all costs, wish me luck.
Posted by katrina sarah turner, Walthamstow, London on Thursday, May 05, 2011
I have been patient of diabetes for the last 10 years and I am 39 years now. I have been smoking for the same 10 years... what shall I do to quit smoking??? Please advise.
Posted by Anil Chandra Pradhan, Nepal on Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I think smoking has more of a Psychological basis apart from Physical Addiction, which develops at a later Stage as time goes by. Even the help of Nicotine Replacement Products, which're supposed to wean a smoker away, become useless unless some other Displacement Activity also is involved.
Posted by Mohan, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. on Friday, February 11, 2011
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