Smoking and Diabetes – Health Risks, Effects, and How to Quit


Everyone knows that smoking is a health hazard, but most people are unaware that smoking can increase the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Smoking also has damaging effects on the health of people who are already diabetic. Apart from this, smoking can lead to many other heart and lung diseases. Diabetes too, can cause other health complications like eye and kidney diseases, which can be fatal if unchecked. So, read on to know more about how smoking can worsen the health problems of diabetic patients and become aware of tips on how you can quit smoking for good.


What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus or Type-2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease in which the body is unable to produce enough of the hormone insulin. As a result, the body cannot properly metabolize carbohydrates, causing blood glucose levels to rise.

Our body’s main source of energy comes from the glucose in our blood. Insulin is a hormone produced by our pancreas and it helps break down carbohydrates from our food into glucose, and allows our body cells to use this for energy. Sometimes, our body does not produce adequate amounts of insulin. Due to this, the glucose remains in our bloodstream and does not reach our body’s cells. This condition is called diabetes.

How the Combination of Smoking and Diabetes Can Be Deadly?

Smoking can cause Type 2 diabetes. Nicotine present in the tobacco and cigarettes increases blood glucose levels and causes insulin resistance. The more you smoke, the bigger is the risk that you have of developing diabetes. Smoking also causes serious health problems in diabetic people in the following ways:

  • Heart diseases, circulatory system issues, and stroke are complications of diabetes. Smoking doubles your risk of developing these problems.
  • Smoking also doubles your chances of getting kidney problems and erectile dysfunction if you are a diabetic.
  • Nicotine present in cigarettes hardens and narrows your blood vessels, thus restricting blood flow in your body. This can cause a heart attack or a stroke. The major cause of death in type 2 diabetic patients is cardiovascular disease.
  • A stroke happens when your brain does not get enough blood supply. This risk is much higher in diabetics who smoke, because both high blood glucose and smoking can narrow your blood vessels and hinder blood circulation.

What Other Illnesses Can Diabetes Cause?

The elevated blood glucose levels caused by diabetes can lead to several long term complication and other illnesses:

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Diabetic people are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
  • Kidney Disease: High blood glucose due to diabetes damages the kidneys waste-filtering system, resulting in kidney failure.
  • Eye Problems: Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of type 2 diabetes. High blood glucose can damage the blood vessels in the retina of your eyes, causing blindness.
  • Nerve Damage:
  • Skin Issues: People with diabetes are vulnerable to bacterial and fungal skin infections.
  • Foot Problems: Due to diabetes, the nerves in the feet get damaged and the blood circulation in the feet can become poor. Hence, blisters and cuts can develop into serious bacterial infections which do not heal easily. This can become serious enough to require amputation.
  • Hearing Problems: Nerve and blood vessel damage can cause hearing loss in diabetic patients.
  • Depression: People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing mental illnesses like chronic depression.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Smoking causes and increases the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which is a type of mental deterioration that causes memory loss, impaired reasoning, and personality changes.

What Other Problems Can Smoking Cause?

Cigarette smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals, including arsenic, tar, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, nicotine, and methanol. These substances are poisonous to human beings and over 60 of these are known carcinogens (cancer causing agents). Cigarette smoking can lead to various problems such as:

  • Over 10 types of cancer including lung, throat, and bladder cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Loss of muscles (Muscular Atrophy)
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Tips on How to Quit Smoking:

Smoking is very toxic and addictive. Here are some tips on how you can quit smoking to lead a longer and healthier life:

  • Try nicotine replacement therapy, where you use nicotine patches and gum to supplement your body’s craving for this chemical. You can gradually reduce the dosage and frequency until you are completely nicotine and cigarette free.
  • Set a date for quitting. Try and gradually reduce the number of times you smoke as the date approaches.
  • Identify your triggers and avoid them. If you usually smoke after a meal, try something different like going for a walk or speak with a friend instead. If you smoke when you are stressed, try a different way to de-stress, like playing a sport.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Research has found that both caffeine and alcohol can increase your nicotine cravings.
  • Make smoking difficult. Get rid of cigarettes, lighters, ash-trays, etc. Hang out in places where smoking is banned.
  • When you crave a smoke, breathe deeply, hold your breath for 10 seconds, and exhale slowly.
  • Talk to a doctor. He may prescribe medication that can reduce your cravings.
  • Join a support group and enlist the help of your loved ones to help you quit smoking.
  • Do not get disheartened. Most people who have successfully quit smoking have had at least 2 to 3 failed attempts.
  • Try quitting cold turkey. Although stopping smoking altogether suddenly is the toughest thing to do, there are many people who have successfully quit smoking using this method.

Lab Tests to Diagnose Diabetes and Complications from Smoking:

India’s fastest growing disease is diabetes. More than 1 million Indians die each year due to diabetic complications. If you suffer from symptoms like fatigue, frequent urination, sudden weight loss, extreme thirst, slow healing of wounds, low immunity, etc. you should get yourself tested for diabetes at a diagnostic lab. You can book a comprehensive diabetes and heart health check-up test through Medlife Labs.

If you are a smoker and suffer from chronic cough, breathing difficulties, sudden loss of voice, chest pain, etc, you should get tested for complications like COPD, cardiovascular disease, and throat or lung cancer. Medlife Labs offers affordable health check-up packages that make it very convenient for you.

Diabetes Profile (Basic): This comprises of 3 tests – 1) Fasting Blood Glucose Level 2) Diabetic Screen (HbA1C) and 3) Post Prandial Blood Glucose Level.

HbA1C / Hemoglobin A1C / Glycated Hemoglobin: This test shows your average blood glucose level over the last 2 to 3 months.

To Conclude:

Smoking is a grave health hazard on its own. The risks of serious health complications are doubled in smokers who have diabetes. Diabetics should avoid smoking, eat healthy, and exercise regularly in order to maintain normal blood glucose levels and live longer.


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