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Diabetes Outlook

It's More Important Than Ever to Stop Smoking

Smoking has long been linked to a number of serious health issues, such as heart disease, lung disease, and cancer. It also increases your chance of developing diabetes, since smokers are up to 40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The risk is also higher for people who are exposed to second-hand smoke. One study found that they have a 22 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than people who aren’t exposed.

A Risk of Serious Complications

If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, smoking will make it harder to successfully manage your blood sugar levels. You’re also more likely to experience serious complications that can result from diabetes, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Blood circulation problems that can cause infections and ulcers. In its most advanced stages, circulation issues can make it necessary for a body part such as a foot to be surgically removed.
  • Nerve damage that can cause numbness and pain in your arms and legs
  • Eye disease that can result in blindness

What’s the Connection?

The nicotine in tobacco raises the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood. If you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels are higher than normal over time. Your body may not make enough insulin, a hormone that helps move sugar into your cells, where it's used for energy. Or your body may simply not use insulin very well. Either way, too much sugar builds up in your blood.

Never smoking, and avoiding secondhand smoke are obviously the best options. But if you currently smoke, the good news is that you may find your blood sugar levels will be easier to keep under control if you quit smoking.

Talk with your doctor about getting help if you need it. He or she may be able to recommend patches, gum or medication that can help you. These should be used as a short-term tool to help you quit rather than a long-term substitute for smoking. That’s because they, like cigarettes, may also contain nicotine.

Tips to Help You Quit

  • Talk to your doctor about medication that may be able to help you quit. Make sure to understand exactly when and how to take it and learn about any side effects you may experience.
  • Pick a date to quit smoking. Ideally this will be during a time of relatively low stress.
  • Tell your friends and family about your quit date so they can support you.
  • Ask your doctor about a support group or counseling.
  • Substitute a healthy habit, such as exercising or eating a nutritious snack, when you feel the urge to smoke.

A Danger You Can Eliminate

Some risk factors for diabetes, such as your age and family history, can’t be controlled. Quitting smoking, however, is an important step you can take to help keep diabetes under better control.

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