Type 2 Diabetes and Cigarette Smoking: Why It’s Time to Quit
There are currently more than 37 million people in the United States living with diabetes. Over 90% of these individuals are managing the Type 2 form of the disease, which is often caused by related risk factors such as obesity, an unhealthy diet, and a lack of physical activity.
There’s another risk factor associated with Type 2 diabetes worth noting and that’s smoking. In this post, we’ll discuss the link between cigarettes and diabetes, and delve into the added risks that come with smoking. But let’s start with the sobering facts about lighting up.
It’s no secret that cigarettes are bad for us, most commonly known for causing lung cancer and contributing to cardiovascular disease and other organ disorders. However, did you know that, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States? Smoking kills more Americans each year that AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, homicide, suicide, illegal drug use, and fires - combined!
So, diabetes or no diabetes, smoking is a habit that needs to be broken in order to live your best life.
The Link Between Smoking and Type 2 Diabetes Risk
There are a lot of risk factors associated with Type 2 diabetes. Some lie within a person’s control like diet and exercise, while others, such as family history and ethnicity, are beyond a person’s control. But what about smoking? What’s the connection between cigarettes and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we now know that people who smoke cigarettes are 30% to 40% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who don’t smoke. That’s a significant jump in risk! Of course, the more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes becomes.
Additionally, once diagnosed with diabetes, people who smoke are far more likely to have trouble with insulin dosing and managing their condition than those living with Type 2 diabetes who don’t smoke. Let’s dig deeper.
How Does Smoking Affect Type 2 Diabetes Management?
According to the FDA, there are a number of ways that cigarette smoking increases a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and makes managing the disease more difficult.
- The chemicals found in cigarettes can damage the body’s cells, interfering with their normal function. When this happens, it can lead to inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation may decrease the effectiveness of insulin produced by the pancreas; a condition known as insulin resistance. When the body cannot use insulin effectively, it increases the risk of diabetes and makes the disease harder to control once it develops.
- When chemicals released into the body from cigarette smoke meet oxygen in the body, it can cause what’s known as oxidative stress. This is another smoking-related complication that can damage the body’s cells and increase insulin resistance, thereby elevating the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Once Type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed, smoking can make regulating blood sugar levels much more difficult. High levels of nicotine found in cigarettes can decrease the effectiveness of insulin treatments, forcing those who smoke to compensate with higher doses of insulin, usually administered by syringe or insulin pen.
Additional Diabetes-Related Complications Associated with Smoking
If you’re living with diabetes, you know that the disease is related to a number of serious health complications. The best thing you can do to avoid these complications is properly manage your disease. That means testing your blood sugar regularly using a glucose meter and test strips, or perhaps a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device. It also means adhering to your insulin treatment plan and taking other medications prescribed by your doctor.
It's already hard enough to manage diabetes, but because smoking makes controlling blood sugar even more challenging that means by lighting up, you’re also increasing your risk of serious health conditions, including:
– Cardiovascular disease (heart disease)
– Nephropathy (kidney disease)
– Neuropathy (diabetes-related nerve damage)
– Diabetic retinopathy (eye complications that can lead to blindness)
Smoking and Sleep
Here’s one more reason to stop smoking. Cigarettes contain nicotine and nicotine is a stimulant. Not only can it keep you up at night, but it can also disrupt your ZZ’s as it leaves your body during sleeping hours. In other words, once addicted you’ll be withdrawing when you sleep.
Either way, studies show that individuals who smoke tend to have more irregular sleep patterns and enjoy less restorative sleep compared to those who don’t smoke. Studies have also shown an established link between a lack of sleep and the progression of Type 2 diabetes. So, if you’re experiencing sleeplessness, it just might be those cigarettes. Granted, immediately after quitting you might find it even harder to get to sleep, but over time things will settle in and you’ll be smoke-free.
Yes, Quitting is Hard
There’s no arguing that tossing out those cigarettes is easier said than done. In fact, if you’re a smoker there’s a good chance you’ve already tried to quit more than once. Just don’t give up. Have you tried today’s smoking cessation products that can help gradually ween you off cigarettes? For added support, you can visit the CDC’s “Tips®” program online to find facts, figures, and resources to help you stop smoking. Of course, it’s always a great idea to talk with your diabetes physician and care team about methods and programs that might help you quit. Look, it certainly won’t be easiest thing you’ve ever done, but quitting smoking will definitely be one of the best things you’ve ever done – for yourself and for all those who love you.