Smoking and Diabetes

If you smoke, you’re more likely to get type 2 diabetes (T2D). In fact, your chances go up by 30%-40% when compared to someone who doesn’t smoke. If you already have diabetes, smoking can make it harder to control your blood sugar. It can also worsen other health problems.

One of the best things you can do for your health is to give up smoking. But it can be hard to stop on your own. That’s why it’s important to get support from friends, family, or online communities. You should also bring it up with your doctor. They have treatments that can help you quit.

How Can Smoking Lead to Diabetes?

Studies show nicotine, the active chemical in cigarettes, can raise your blood sugar. It can also hurt your body in many diabetes-related ways. You may get:

  • Insulin resistance. Nicotine makes it harder for your cells to respond to insulin. That’s the hormone that helps your body use the sugar in your blood. You’ll end up with higher glucose levels.
  • Inflammation. Chemicals in cigarettes hurt your cells. This can lead to inflammation. That’s when your body tries to heal itself. This kind of damage makes it harder for your body to use insulin the right way.
  • Belly fat. If you’re a heavy smoker, you may gain more weight around your midsection. Even if you’re not overweight, this central fat can raise your chances of insulin resistance and T2D.
  • Other health problems. Your “bad” LDL cholesterol can go up. At the same time, your “good” HDL cholesterol goes down. Smoking also raises your triglycerides. Those are a kind of fat found in your blood. High cholesterol and triglycerides have a link to T2D.

Continued

Smoking if You Have Diabetes

Nicotine makes it harder to control your blood sugar. If you use insulin, you may need to take more of it than someone who doesn’t smoke. Smoking paired with unmanaged diabetes can also speed up damage to your whole body. That’s because your big and little blood vessels get hurt.

Compared to someone with diabetes who doesn’t smoke, you’ll have an even greater chance of:

Smoking and Sleep

Studies show smokers don’t get as much quality sleep. There’s a link between a lack of this restorative deep sleep and T2D. Part of the problem is that nicotine is a stimulant. That means it can keep you awake. But you may also have sleep problems as the chemicals leave your body at night. That’s called withdrawal.

On the flip side, you may find it hard to fall or stay asleep when you first quit smoking. If that happens to you, talk to your doctor. They can help you find ways to get a good night’s rest.

Does Smoking Cause Diabetes?

There’s a really strong connection between cigarette smoking and T2D. Many studies point to a cause-effect relationship. But some experts believe that it’s hard to say for sure that smoking alone causes diabetes. That’s because there are a lot of other things at play.

Some other drivers of T2D include:

Quitting Can Help

Your blood sugar may go up when you first stop smoking. This might happen because of post-quit weight gain. But experts aren’t sure if added pounds are totally to blame. Either way, you should stick with it. The longer you go without cigarettes, the better your insulin resistance will get.

If you don’t already have T2D, you may be more likely to get it when you first stop smoking. Your chances are highest the first 2 years after you quit. But if you abstain for 10-12 years, your chances are more like someone who’s never smoked.

Continued

If you’re finding it hard to quit, talk to your health care team. You doctor may suggest a mix of treatment. That might include:

You can also search for apps to help you quit, or you can call 800-Quit NOW (800-784-8669). Some online resources you can turn to include:

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on May 07, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Diabetes: Smoking and Diabetes,” “How to Quit Smoking.”

Diabetes Education: “Current Smoking: An Independent Predictor of Elevated A1C in Persons with Type 2 Diabetes.”

PLoS Medicine: “Smoking and Inflammation,” “Cigarette Smoking Increases Abdominal and Visceral Obesity but Not Overall Fatness: An Observational Study.” 

Journal of Biomedical Science: “Mechanisms of inflammatory responses and development of insulin resistance: how are they interlinked?”

Clinical Interventions in Aging: “Influence of cigarette smoking on hormone and lipid metabolism in women in late reproductive stage.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes.”

Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome: “Smoking and diabetes: dangerous liaisons and confusing relationships.”

Nicotine & Tobacco Research: “Sleep as a Target for Optimized Response to Smoking Cessation Treatment.”

Sleep Medicine Reviews: “Effects of nicotine on sleep during consumption, withdrawal and replacement therapy.

National Sleep Foundation: “The Link Between a Lack of Sleep and Type 2 Diabetes.”

BMC Public Health: “Sleep quality in cigarette smokers and nonsmokers: findings from the general population in central China.”

Addiction Research and Theory: “Insomnia symptoms as a risk factor for cessation failure following smoking treatment.”

Journal of Diabetes Research: “Association between the Time of Length since Smoking cessation and Insulin Resistance in Asymptomatic Korean Ex-Smokers.”

Diabetes: “Nicotine and Insulin Resistance: When the Smoke Clears.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination