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Smoking with Type 2 Diabetes: Adding Fuel to the Fire

November 14, 2022
By Pivot
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In the United States, approximately 37 million Americans are living with type 2 diabetes

But many people don’t know about this one hidden cause of type 2 diabetes. Learn more. 

How does type 2 diabetes develop?

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body - more specifically the pancreas - either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body actually becomes resistant to insulin. Insulin is a key hormone that manages the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates and controls blood sugar levels. 

Eventually, because your pancreas cannot keep up as insulin resistance is developed, blood sugar rises, setting the stage for type 2 diabetes. Unmanaged type 2 diabetes is highly damaging to the body and can cause a whole host of other serious health problems like heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease, among others. 

What does a type 2 diabetes diagnosis mean?

Getting a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes means making lifestyle changes in order to manage and take control of the disease. People with diabetes need to take daily steps to keep their blood sugar levels within safe ranges, including eating at regular times, not skipping meals, and choosing more nutritious foods. Oftentimes, people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are also prompted to give up or reduce their indulgences. That includes using tobacco. 

A hidden cause factoring into a type 2 diabetes diagnosis

What many people don’t know or realize is that an action such as smoking can actually cause type 2 diabetes So much so that people who smoke are at between a 30 - 40% increased risk of developing diabetes compared to those who do not smoke. 

The more cigarettes smoked daily by an individual, the higher the risk of developing diabetes, and with approximately more than one in three, or 96 million American adults having prediabetes, it’s integral to get those who smoke on the road to quitting. Quitting smoking has unexpected benefits, including decreasing the chance of prediabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes.

Smoking makes diabetes harder to control

Smoking significantly increases the risk of serious complications from type 2 diabetes. People who smoke have more trouble with insulin dosing and controlling their disease. They may need higher doses of insulin to normalize blood sugars. 

Oftentimes, uncontrolled blood sugar can cause a number of serious health problems, including:

  • Heart and blood vessel disease. Diabetes can potentially cause an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and more, like poor blood circulation in the legs and feet. This can lead to infections, ulcers, and possible amputation.
  • Eye damage. Serious eye diseases like cataracts and glaucoma are caused by diabetes, damaging the blood vessels of the retina, and potentially leading to blindness. 
  • Nerve damage. Peripheral neuropathy, and damaged nerves that cause numbness, pain, weakness, and poor coordination are all a result of rampant high blood sugar over time. 
  • Kidney disease. Diabetes can lead to chronic kidney disease or end-stage kidney disease, which is irreversible. Dialysis or a kidney transplant is often required. 
  • Skin conditions. The effects of diabetes aren’t limited to just the inside of the body. Diabetes can open you up to more skin problems, like bacterial and fungal infections. 
  • Slow healing. When people with diabetes leave things like cuts and blisters untreated, they run the risk of serious infection. Severe damage can lead to things like an amputation. 

What happens to someone’s diabetes after quitting smoking?

Quitting smoking can help prevent diabetes

For more than one in three Americans with prediabetes — over 80% of which do not even know they have it — quitting smoking can decrease the chance of prediabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes.

Quitting smoking can improve diabetes control

Smoking makes it harder to control blood sugar. But, studies have shown that only eight weeks after quitting smoking, insulin starts to become more effective at lowering blood sugar. 

Reducing smoking can lower the risk of developing diabetes

The more cigarettes smoked per day, the higher the risk of developing diabetes. It has been reported that those who smoked at least 20 cigarettes per day had a 61% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes while smoking less than 20 cigarettes daily resulted in a 29% higher risk. The takeaway? Even reducing the amount smoked can dramatically lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Reducing or quitting smoking is one of the best ways to manage type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes and smoking are two giant American health crises, affecting millions of Americans and causing many well-documented health issues. Together, the health risks are multiplied. 

For someone with type 2 diabetes who uses tobacco, reducing or quitting is one of the most urgent and effective things they can do to manage their condition.

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The time to start is today

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