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Diabetes&Smoking - Another Reason to Quit

As if there are not enough reasons to quit smoking, breaking the habit is even more important if you have diabetes or want to avoid getting it.

Diabetes is a disease of the pancreas, an organ behind your stomach. Normally, the pancreas releases a substance, called insulin, into the blood. Insulin helps the body use simple sugars and fats broken down from the food we eat. When a person has diabetes, the pancreas either does not make insulin, doesn’t make enough of it, or the insulin does not work properly. Diabetes is a serious illness and its long-term complications can include eye disease (retinopathy), kidney disease (nephropathy), heart disease, and nerve disease (neuropathy).

Smoking increases your risk of getting diabetes.

If you smoke and think you are otherwise in good health, think again. According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, smoking 16 to 25 cigarettes a day increases your risk for Type 2 diabetes to three times that of a non-smoker. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chances are of developing diabetes.

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Being of African-American, Hispanic, or Native American race or ethnic background
  • Obesity (This means a person is 20 percent or more over his or her desired body weight.)
  • Physical stress (This includes things such as surgery or illness.)
  • Use of certain medicines
  • Injury to the pancreas (Injuries can occur from things such as infection, tumor, surgery, or accident)
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Hypertension
  • Elevated blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels
  • Age (Risk increases with age.)
  • Alcohol (Risk increases with years of heavy alcohol use.)
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy (Women can develop diabetes during pregnancy. If this happens, the chance of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life also increases.)

Smoking increases complications for those who have diabetes.

While smoking can increase your chances of getting diabetes, it can also make managing diabetes more difficult for those who already have it. Other complications of smoking on diabetes include retinopathy (eye disease), heart disease, stroke, vascular disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot problems, and many others.

Other ways smoking can harm you include:

  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, lung, and bladder
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Limited joint mobility
  • Increased cholesterol and other fat levels in your blood
  • Impotence
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth

Reducing your risk of getting diabetes

A person with some or all of the risk factors might never develop diabetes, but your chances increase as more risk factors are present. Certain risk factors like age, family history, and ethnicity cannot be altered, but a change in lifestyle that includes eating a modified diet, increasing physical activity, and quitting smoking might help reduce your risk. Ask you doctor for specific recommendations that are right for you.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 3/7/2012...#9961