Smoking and Diabetes

What Is Diabetes?

Journal Staff Report | 11/14/2016, 8:55 a.m.
Diabetes is a group of diseases in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Most of the food a ...

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of diseases in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Most of the food a person eats is turned into glucose (a kind of sugar) for the body’s cells to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin that helps glucose get into the body’s cells. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use the insulin very well. Less glucose gets into the cells and instead builds up in the blood.

There are different types of diabetes. Type 2 is the most common in adults and accounts for more than 90% of all diabetes cases. Fewer people have type 1 diabetes, which most often develops in children, adolescents, or young adults.

How Is Smoking Related to Diabetes?

We now know that smoking causes type 2 diabetes. In fact, smokers are 30–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers. And people with diabetes who smoke are more likely than nonsmokers to have trouble with insulin dosing and with controlling their disease.

The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk for type 2 diabetes. No matter what type of diabetes you have, smoking makes your diabetes harder to control.

If you have diabetes and you smoke, you are more likely to have serious health problems from diabetes. Smokers with diabetes have higher risks for serious complications, including:

• Heart and kidney disease

• Poor blood flow in the legs and feet that can lead to infections, ulcers, and possible amputation (removal of a body part by surgery, such as toes or feet)

• Retinopathy (an eye disease that can cause blindness)

• Peripheral neuropathy (damaged nerves to the arms and legs that causes numbness, pain, weakness, and poor coordination)

If you are a smoker with diabetes, quitting smoking will benefit your health right away. People with diabetes who quit have better control of their blood sugar levels.

For free help to quit, call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit CDC.gov/tips. Spanish-speakers can call 1-855-DÉJELO-YA

(1-855-335-3569) or visit CDC.gov/consejos.

How Can Diabetes Be Prevented?

Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your chance of having type 2 diabetes.

Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.

Stay active. Physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in adults who are at high risk for the disease.

How Is Diabetes Treated?

Diabetes treatment and management can include:

• A healthy diet and physical activity program

• Weight loss (if overweight or obese)

• Medicines to control blood sugar by helping the body use insulin better

• Insulin taken by injections or by using an insulin pump

• Patient education to address problem-solving and coping skills needed to help manage diabetes and its complications

• Medicines to control cholesterol and blood pressure

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention