We all know smoking tobacco poses serious health risks. But what some people don’t know is that smoking can make certain health issues caused by diabetes worse or cause them to deteriorate faster.
If you have diabetes and quit smoking, you may experience the following major health benefits right away or soon after quitting:
- Improved blood sugar control. Smoking makes it harder to control blood sugar because it is associated with insulin resistance, which is when the body can’t properly respond to the insulin it makes and blood sugar levels get higher. If you quit smoking, you remove this added stress to your blood sugar management.
- Lower risk for heart disease. Smoking when you have diabetes makes it 2 to 3 times more likely that you will develop heart disease than if you didn’t smoke. Diabetes causes inflammation and narrowing of blood vessels, and smoking makes those problems worse, so your blood vessels and your heart will thank you if you quit smoking. When you quit smoking, you will see both immediate and long-term health benefits to your heart – within 20 minutes your heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal, by 1 year your additional risk for heart disease drops by half, and after 2 to 5 years of being smoke free, your risk for stroke could fall to the same as that of a nonsmoker.
- Lower risk for kidney complications. People with diabetes are at risk for complications with their kidneys, a disease called diabetic nephropathy. In people who already have kidney damage, smoking can cause that condition to get worse faster because smoking causes damage to the blood vessels that supply the kidneys.
- Decreased risk of foot problems. Diabetes can cause poor circulation to the legs and feet as well as nerve damage, a complication called diabetic neuropathy. That combination can lead to foot infections, ulcers, peripheral vascular disease, and – in extreme cases – amputation. Smoking can further restrict blood flow to the nerves and blood vessels that supply the legs and feet. The good news is that within 3 weeks to 2 months of quitting smoking, circulation can improve.
- Reduced risk for eye disease. Smoking damages the blood vessels that supply the eyes and it has also been linked to increased pressure in the eye, which can lead to glaucoma and optic nerve damage. Diabetes also damages the eyes and can lead to diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that causes blindness. Quitting smoking reduces the risk for developing eye disease and can slow progression of existing eye disease.
- Lower risk for gum disease and oral infections. Smoking can impact your oral health by raising your risk for gum disease, mouth and throat cancer, and oral fungal infections. Diabetes also increases your risk for gum disease and oral fungal infections. Quitting smoking reduces your risk for gum disease and oral infections, and has the added benefit of improving your sense of smell and taste, so food will be more enjoyable as well.
Quitting smoking can benefit your health right away by helping you to better control your diabetes and reduce your risk for serious complications. If you have diabetes and smoke, talk to your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist about which smoking cessation options are available to you. You can also access helpful quit smoking tools from Rite Aid.
7 Tips for Preventing Heart Disease, Joslin Diabetes Center
Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting, National Institutes of Health
Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking, Centers for Disease Control
Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep your Eyes Healthy, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep your Kidneys Healthy, NIDDK
Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep your Mouth Healthy, NIDDK
Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep your Nervous System Healthy, NIDDK
Smoking, American Diabetes Association
Smoking and Diabetes, Centers for Disease Control
Smoking and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Diabetes & Metabolism Journal
When Smokers Quit – What are the Benefits Over Time?, American Cancer Society