We all know that smoking is bad for our health but diabetes and smoking are a deadly combination. Many kinds of cancers and cardiovascular diseases are linked to it. There is not one organ that isn’t affected negatively by smoking. Most of these diseases are fatal. The harmful effects of smoking become exponential for those who have diabetes. Research has proved that smoking regularly increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. While diabetes is bad enough, smoking increases the problems many times over as it causes more complications. In short, diabetes and smoking do not go hand-in-hand!
Why Is Smoking Bad for Diabetics?
The food we eat gets converted to glucose in the body. The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that is responsible for converting this glucose into energy. Diabetes is a metabolic disease that affects the glucose levels in the blood. Due to various environmental and genetic factors, either the body becomes resistant to insulin or stops producing it in enough quantities. So, while there is more than enough glucose coursing through the body, it doesn’t reach the cells to be utilized for biological processes.
Those who smoke are 40% more likely to develop diabetes. Those who already have diabetes are vulnerable to have more complications than non-smoking diabetics. Also, they have more trouble controlling their disease. Here is how smoking affects people with diabetes.
- Smoking Increases Blood Glucose Levels
People with diabetes already deal with fluctuating blood glucose levels. Smoking makes it harder because nicotine is responsible for increasing resistance to insulin. The decreases sensitivity leads to a steep rise in blood sugar and this causes more organ damage in those with diabetes.
- Smoking Affects Blood Vessels
Those who smoke and have diabetes are twice, sometimes even four times depending on their smoking habits, as likely to develop cardiovascular problems. Smoking constricts the blood vessels throughout the body. This leads to reduced blood flow to the heart and the brain leading to heart attacks and stroke. The reduced blood flow also affects the legs, increasing their chances of ulcers and sores, infections and even amputation. You must realize that the deadly combination of diabetes and smoking is curbing your chance at a healthier and happier life.
- Smoking Causes Respiratory Problems
Smoking affects the lungs negatively. Those who puff away are at an increased risk of suffering from chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other breathing problems. For people with diabetes, the problem increases as the organs are already under stress due to the high glucose levels in the blood. Most diabetics are more susceptible, three times more, to developing pneumonia than the non–smoking people with diabetes. Therefore, Diabetes and smoking is a big NO.
- Smoking Causes Vision Problems
High sugar levels affect the nerves and cause severe damage. Therefore, in most cases, people with diabetes suffer vision problems. Smoking regularly accelerates the process of nerve damage in the body and can cause vision problems like retinopathy much quicker in people with diabetes. It also increases the odds of developing cataract and glaucoma.
- Smoking Causes Peripheral Neuropathy
Since smoking affects the nerves negatively and diabetes is already responsible for causing severe nerve damage, combining the two can be fatal. Smokers who suffer from diabetes are at risk of developing peripheral neuropathy much earlier than non-smoking diabetics. Peripheral neuropathy causes numbness, tingling, pain and coordination problems in arms and legs.
Why Diabetics Find It Harder to Quit Smoking?
There are two primary reasons why those with diabetes find it more onerous to quit smoking.
- Most diabetics fear the weight gain that is associated with quitting smoking. However, the weight gain is negligible and is a much better side effect than all the negative issues that smoking causes.
- People with diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing depression. By quitting smoking, they may feel the lows to a higher degree than those who do not have diabetes. The increased stress levels stop the process of quitting and increase consumption of tobacco.
What Can You Do?
To reduce the risks associated with smoking, there are a lot of things that patients with diabetes can do. Quitting smoking will improve your health and how you look and feel about yourself. Here are some tips to help you quit smoking.
- Set a date to quit. Decide on a date that you will stop smoking and do not waver.
- Some people prefer to quit suddenly while others may respond better to a more gradual quitting process. Decide what works best for you and work towards that goal.
- Share your quitting plans with friends and family. They will help you stay on the path should you find it hard to stay motivated. Telling your doctor may also bring in a factor of responsibility and accountability.
- Increase your inconvenience. Stow away the ashtrays. Don’t keep cigarettes in the house and throw away the lighters. If you must head to the stores to purchase your cigarettes, chances are you will let go of the idea.
- Don’t act on the craving. A craving for a cigarette doesn’t last for long. Practice deep breathing or meditation or go for a bath every time you want to smoke.
- Avoid places and people that encourage smoking. Instead, hang out in places where smoking is not allowed. Libraries, museums, theater and homes of friends are good places to encourage your quitting process.
- Find the friends who are on a quitting journey themselves. This will encourage you and keep you motivated.
- Keep healthy items like nuts and fruits around and eat them every time you feel like smoking. Or drink a glass of water. Most people experience an improved sense of taste after they quit smoking leading them to overeat which causes the dreaded weight gain. Keep low-calorie, healthy food options to keep off the kilos.
- Every time you feel like smoking, exercise. You could go for a walk, a jog, do yoga or dance instead as a healthier alternative to smoking. Exercising also reduces stress levels.
- Try nicotine replacement therapy by using nicotine gum or patches. But these increase the blood sugar levels so be careful and gradually reduce your dependence on them too.
- Engage in activities that make you happy. Most people forget to smoke when they are enjoying life.
- Caffeine makes cigarettes taste better so until you are sure you won’t relapse, stay away from coffee and caffeinated drinks. Also, reduce your alcohol intake as it increases the urge to smoke.