We all know the health hazards of smoking. It causes lung cancer, increases the risks of coronary heart disease and stroke, and can cause other ailments like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. But aside from the most common side effects, diabetes and smoking can be an even more potent duo.
Nicotine can increase blood sugar in those of us with T1D, so smoking can have a big impact on our health, and even alter the amount of insulin needed to keep safe A1C levels. Even more surprising, smokers who don’t have diabetes are at a higher risk for getting Type 2 Diabetes than non-smokers.
Quitting smoking can reduce a lot of the inherent risks, and more importantly, can provide additional (and sometimes surprising) health benefits that you may not have thought about. Here are four that are specific to those of us with Type 1 Diabetes.
1. Less Problems Keeping your Blood Sugar Under Control
Nicotine, along with being highly addictive, also raises A1C levels. That means that quitting smoking will help significantly with managing your blood sugar, and make it easier to keep it within a healthy range. It will also make figuring out insulin dosage much more simple. According to the Center for Disease Control in the U.S., the benefits of improved blood sugar levels can be seen almost immediately after quitting.
2. Reduce the Possibility of Cardiovascular Complications
Smokers without diabetes are already at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular related diseases given that smoking increases bad cholesterol in the body, as well as blood sugar. But for those of us with diabetes, smoking triples the risk of cardiovascular disease and other related complications. Quitting can slash the possibility of having cardiovascular complications and health issues, such as atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries) and decrease the risk of blood clots.
3. Lowered Risk of Kidney Complications
Kidney failure is a real concern for the diabetes community, however, smoking coupled with diabetes puts people at a much higher risk of developing some type of kidney failure or complication. The lowered risk of kidney disease is enough of a reason in itself to quit.
4. Improved Blood Circulation
Diabetes can already affect the circulatory system, but smoking constricts the blood vessels even more and can impair blood flow to the body’s extremities causing damage to the blood vessels in the hands and feet, while the chemicals in tobacco cause damage to blood cells. By quitting smoking, you can significantly improve blood flow and circulation, and help your blood vessels work more efficiently.
Smoking can be a hard habit to break, but the benefits of quitting are plentiful enough to warrant stopping for good. Get friends and family to hold you accountable, take it one day at a time, find new activities to replace the habits and trends associated with smoking, and talk to you doctor about additional aids to help you quit smoking (though options like the patch and nicotine chewing gum might not be viable options since they still use nicotine to wean users off of cigarettes). It might be difficult at first, but the health benefits are more than worth it.