Smoking and diabetes: a deadly combination

Why is smoking so bad for people with diabetes? People with diabetes face an even greater risk from smoking: just like high blood glucose levels, the noxious chemicals in cigarette smoke attack blood vessels, accelerating atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and impairing the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to the tissues.

Together, the deadly combination of high blood glucose and smoking dramatically increase damage to the blood vessels that feed the heart, brain, eyes, kidneys and peripheral nerves, speeding up the long-term complications of diabetes.

People with diabetes are already at increased risk for heart disease; however, if they smoke, they face three times the risk for heart attack of a person with diabetes who does not smoke. Quitting smoking is one of the most important things individuals living with diabetes can do to help prevent or delay the onset of complications.

Get as much information as you can from your doctor or pharmacist about options to help you quit, including medications that can increase your chances of success by three to four times. Similar to the day-to-day process of managing your diabetes through diet, exercise and regular blood glucose testing, managing to quit smoking is something that is best approached by incorporating it into your daily routine.

Nicotine replacement therapy, whether in the form of a gum, patch or inhaler, to help ease withdrawal symptoms, is now available without a prescription in pharmacies.It is very safe, even for people with heart disease, pregnant women or teenagers, and it’s important when using it to know that you can use as much as is necessary to stem your particular cravings.

Another prescription drug called Varenicline (Champix) acts by stimulating the receptors in the brain responsible for initiating and maintaining nicotine addiction, so that people feel they have smoked a cigarette without actually having done so.

Manage your quitting plan much like you manage your diabetes take it one day at a time.