07/19/2018

Have diabetes? You better put that cigarette down.

Smoking increases chances of developing diabetes and complications if you have the condition and smoke

We know smoking causes various cancers, lung conditions and even heart disease, but are you aware of tobacco’s impact regarding diabetes?

Smoking is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes and continue to smoke, you are at a higher risk for serious complications.

Theresa George
Theresa George, RN, diabetes educational specialist with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Diabetes Management

“No matter what type of diabetes you have, smoking makes your diabetes harder to control,” says Theresa George, RN, diabetes educational specialist with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Diabetes Management.

Diabetes is a condition in which the body doesn’t make or use insulin correctly. The most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the body makes little or no insulin due to an autoimmune reaction that destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. In type 2, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or resists insulin.

Related Article: Eight misconceptions about diabetes

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for more than 90 percent of all diabetes cases. Certain risk factors can predispose you to diabetes including:

  • Being overweight
  • A parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Not exercising at least three times a week
  • Eating a diet high in fat and cholesterol
  • Having hypertension

Tobacco use also can be a contributing factor for developing diabetes because smoking increases inflammation in the body, George says. Evidence shows that smoking is associated with a higher risk of abdominal obesity, or belly fat. Abdominal obesity is a known risk factor for diabetes because it encourages the product of cortisol, a hormone that increases blood sugar, George explains.

Statistics show tobacco causes you to have a 30 percent increased chance of developing the condition, says Alix Schnibben, PharmD, BCACP, CTTS, clinical pharmacy specialist at the St. Joseph’s/Candler Centers for Medication Management and Tobacco Cessation Program.

Alix Schnibben
Alix Schnibben, PharmD, BCACP, CTTS, clinical pharmacy specialist at the St. Joseph’s/Candler Centers for Medication Management and Tobacco Cessation Program

“And, if you have diabetes and smoke, it increases your risk of the complications,” Schnibben adds.

People with diabetes who smoke are more likely than nonsmokers to have trouble with insulin dosing and with controlling their disease, Schnibben says. Smokers with diabetes also have higher risk for serious complications including:

  • Heart disease
  • Nephropathy (kidney disease or damage)
  • Retinopathy (damage to the eyes)
  • Neuropathy (damage to your nerves)
  • Poor blood flow in the legs and feet that can lead to infections, ulcers and possible amputation

“It’s bad enough to have diabetes, but when you have diabetes and smoke, you are most likely also going to develop cardiovascular disease,” George says. “There are several studies that show smoking complicates diabetes from interfering with your glucose control to increased risk of co-morbidities.”

The Center for Diabetes Management works hand-in-hand with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Comprehensive Tobacco Cessation Program. That program gives those who want to stop smoking support and resources needed to quit for good, Schnibben says. The program includes one-on-one counseling, group sessions and smoking cessation medications, if deemed necessary. Learn more about the program at sjchs.org/stopsmoking

When patients with diabetes are ready to quit or curious about quitting, George refers them to the Tobacco Cessation Program.

“The best thing you can do is quit,” George says. “You will see a difference in your health whether you’ve smoke for 20 years or four years.”

Related Article: The two things you need to do to stop smoking

The St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Diabetes Management is an American Diabetes Association certified program. It offers individual diabetes management counseling programs as well as group educational classes on topics including exercise, carb counting and diet and preventing complications with diabetes.

A doctor’s referral is required for insurance reimbursement; however, the staff can help with referrals. For more information, call 912-819-6146 or visit our website.

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000