Smoking when you have diabetes creates an even more toxic environment for your heart and other organs.
Truth #1: Cigarettes are bad for your health. Truth #2: Quitting smoking can be extremely difficult to do. But there’s a third truth here that can be a real wake-up call to those with diabetes who smoke. As harmful as cigarettes can be to your health, know that risk multiplies significantly once you add a diabetes diagnosis to the mix. And while quitting can be one of the hardest things in life to achieve, it may be helpful to understand just how much of a toll cigarettes take on your health with diabetes.
“People [with diabetes] who smoke have a faster disease progression and they suffer more of the consequences,” says certified diabetes educator Sandra Arevalo, RDN. “For example, things like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, strokes, even heart attacks; they're higher in people who smoke.”
“Diabetics who smoke have higher than normal A1C levels than a regular diabetic who does not smoke,” says internal medicine doctor Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD.
One of the challenges for getting diabetics to quit smoking is that they may not have life-changing symptoms, say, the way someone who’s suffered a heart attack might. “If someone comes to you and they're having chest pain, and you tell them they're having a heart attack, they're gonna be pretty motivated to change,” says Paul Knoepflmacher, MD, an internist in New York City. “But if you just tell them, ‘well, your sugar's 150. You really need to do something to reduce it,’ sometimes it's a little bit more difficult.”
What Dr. Knoepflmacher stresses to patients is how quickly the health benefits of quitting smoking take effect. “What I tell people is that their risk of lung cancer, of lung disease, of heart disease, of stroke eventually starts to move back toward baseline the longer they've stopped smoking.”
Dr. Chaudhry is an endocrinologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City.Sandra Arevalo
Sandra Arevalo is a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and director of nutrition services and community outreach at South Bronx Health Center.Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe
Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe is an internist and health media expert in New York City.Paul Knoepflmacher
Dr. Knoepflmacher is a clinical instructor of medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he also maintains a private practice.
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Smoking increases your
cardiovascular risks significantly.
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Smoking also increases your risk
of developing type two diabetes.
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It's important to stop smoking for
a number of reasons, but your risk
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of developing diabetes if you're not a
diabetic may go down if you stop smoking.
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Unfortunately, people who smoke,
they have a faster disease progression,
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and they suffer more of the consequences.
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So for example, things like high blood
pressure, cardiovascular disease, strokes,
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even heart attacks.
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They're higher in people that smoke.
Smoking is absolutely horrible for
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someone who has diabetes.
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There have been studies in
the past that have actually shown
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that diabetics who smoke
have higher than normal
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A1C levels than a regular
diabetic who does not smoke.
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What it also does is the nicotine which is
a harmful components in your cigarettes.
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It has the ability as
well to essentially make
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your blood glucose control even worse.
Sometimes people have no symptoms.
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So you're trying to convince them that
an illness that they have can potentially
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lead to further complications or
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So it's sometimes a hard sell when
someone's not having a symptom.
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If someone comes to you and they're having
chest pain and you tell them they're
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having a heart attack, they're gonna
be pretty motivated to change.
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But if you just tell them,
well, your sugars 150,
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you really need to do
something to reduce it, and
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work with them, sometimes it's
a little bit more difficult.
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The important thing about quitting smoking
is that the benefit of stopping smoking
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begins as soon as you stop smoking and
gets better and
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better the longer that elapses
when you haven't had a cigarette.
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So what I tell people is that their
risk of lung cancer, of lung disease,
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of heart disease, of stroke.
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All of that eventually starts
to move back towards baseline
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the longer they've stopped smoking.
The addiction for
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nicotine is very real in lots of patients.
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Certain things that your
doctors can do in order to
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address the smoking addiction issue.
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There are certain medication
that are used by doctors
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to try to help with the smoking addiction.
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But first and foremost,
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what your doctor will do is talk to
you to see if you are ready to quit.
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That's usually the first step.
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If a patient is not ready to quit smoking
yet, there's really not much you can do
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in order to help them to break that
bad habit and break that cycle.
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So it's really a step by step approach
with every patient to kind of see
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where they are in their willingness to
want to actually stop that bad habit.
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