If you are a smoker, you have a 40% – 60% chance of getting diabetes. Smoking changes the way your body processes and regulates blood sugar. This is why diabetes and smoking has an added set of risks. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes and excess blood sugar from diabetes tends to restrict oxygen flow within our body. As a result your organs are much more strained. Diabetic smokers have double the risk of heart attack, kidney failure, pancreatic cancer etc when compared to a non-diabetic smoker or a diabetic who doesn’t smoke. There are certain common illnesses that a smoker and a diabetic can have. When combined together, smoking and diabetes is absolutely lethal!
Smoking, Diabetes and The Nervous System
Diabetics often suffer from peripheral neuropathy because the excess glucose in the blood hinders proper nerve function. Smoking on, the other hand, restricts blood flow to the microscopic nerve cells. This causes our nerves to narrow down and restrict brain signals to the respective body parts. Peripheral neuropathy caused by smoking has the same symptoms as those caused by diabetes. So, you may have a tingling sensation on your hands and feet. You may also loose sensation on your hands and feet and this poses severe threats to limb amputation.
What happens if you smoke with diabetes? Your chances of getting peripheral neuropathy doubles. Recent reports suggest that, diabetics who smoke are three times more likely to get peripheral neuropathy than those who do not.
Smoking, Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer
When there is a gene mutation either passed by the father or the mother, we can get Pancreatic Cancer. This is an aggressive form of cancer with a survival rate as low as 5%. Smoking increases the chances of pancreatic cancer because it can damage our DNA strands. Cigarettes have a considerable amount of carcinogens and if they impede our DNA readings, we can get pancreatic cancer (or any other cancer for that matter). This means that someone with a perfectly healthy DNA strand can get pancreatic cancer just from smoking!
As for diabetes, one does not know how it leads to pancreatic cancer. We only know that the chances of getting this deadly disease increases within five years of having diabetes. Doctors are yet to understand if diabetes causes cancer or if the pre-cancerous pancreatic cells first cause diabetes before causing cancer. After all, diabetes is a result of a poorly functioning pancreas. Either ways, studies show that diabetics are 2 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer. Though we do not have specific statistics, it is fair to say that smoking further increases your chances of developing this illness.
Increased Chances of Heart Attack
Diabetics are more likely to have/develop a condition called Diabetic Dyslipidaemia where the lipid profile goes in the wrong direction. Instead of building good cholesterol and removing bad cholesterol, a diabetic’s body may start doing the opposite. This increases the chances of heart strokes by 14%.
Cigarettes contain a multitude of toxic chemicals. The three most common of which are carbon monoxide, tar and nicotine. They make your artery walls sticky. This makes it easier for bad cholesterol to stick to. Diabetic Dyslipidaemia increases the amount of bad cholesterol in your system and the toxins from cigarettes creates an added layer of adhesive on your artery walls. The nicotine also increases your heart rate. The combination of sticky arteries, high amounts of bad cholesterol and increased heart rate from nicotine increases risks of heart disease and heart attack by a multitude.
Increased Chances of Kidney Problems
As mentioned earlier, nicotine increases heart rate and the chemicals present in cigarettes can narrow the diameter of your nerves. This increases your overall blood pressure. The problem with smoking is that it creates a hindrance for blood pressure medicines from working efficiently and high blood pressure puts a direct pressure on your kidneys.
In the case of diabetics, the high amounts of glucose in the blood damages blood vessels. When they damage the blood vessels supplying oxygen to your kidneys, it diminishes the functions of the organ. A combination of smoking and diabetes causes twice as much pressure on the kidneys.
We have only discussed a few of the possible outcomes of smoking with diabetes. The truth is, it is a lethal combination and any organ can suffer from it. It a difficult rocky life if you are diabetic and smoke but there is only one way to make it less painful. Since we cannot quit diabetes, the smoking has to go! If you are a chain smoker you may see improvements within days of quitting! However, the real benefits will show only after a year of not touching cigarettes. Your risks for a heart attack will be halved. Other risks like pancreatic cancer, kidney failure will also decrease considerably. You will notice the change too. Suddenly it will be easier for you to breathe and do your workout or go for a walk without feeling breathless.
Most diabetics can have nicotine replacement medication. However, if you have kidney problems, it would be a good idea to talk to your medical practitioner before starting the therapy. We understand that it is not easy to quit a habit but if we want a richer life, we must take this step forward. It is all about taking the first step, the rest will follow. All the best!