We all know by now how smoking negatively impacts health, but for diabetics, it can be particularly damaging: according to the website Diabetes UK, “smoking can double the likelihood of [diabetes-related] heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, and erectile dysfunction.” About.com says that, “Both [smoking and diabetes] can damage your heart and your circulation. Both can raise your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels. Smokers also have a harder time controlling their blood glucose levels, because insulin resistance is increased by smoking.”
As anyone living with diabetes is most likely already aware, the disease puts you at risk of developing peripheral neuropathy, a condition where nerve damage in your extremities causes you to lose or experience lessened sensation in your feet and/or hands.
That’s because, in addition to all the well-known risks of smoking, regularly lighting up constricts and damages your blood vessels, which is a serious problem for anyone, but especially for diabetics with already-compromised circulation. This is what can happen if you smoke with diabetes.
Diabetics, Smoking and PAD: a Dangerous Combination
When you smoke, your circulation takes a hit. And when you double up on your risks of poor circulation, you increase the chances that wounds on your feet will have a tougher time healing, meaning they might turn into ulcers, which, if left untreated, can jeopardize your whole foot, meaning you might even need an amputation.
Of course, any time of year is a good time to stop smoking, but with the New Year—and a fresh start—just days away, now would be a particularly appropriate time. Need a better reason why?
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, (more than 600,000 of those fatalities are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke.)
Most of the large-scale, devastating consequences of tobacco addiction are well known and publicized—emphysema, cancer, etc., but did you also know that tobacco use begins to affect you long before potentially fatal consequences begin to manifest themselves?
It’s true! Studies show that smoking and using other tobacco products negatively impacts your circulatory system, affecting you in all sorts of terrible ways. After you break a bone, it takes an average person about 69 days to form new bone, but it takes a smoker over 89 days to form that new bone, because of the damage nicotine and carbon monoxide, two-byproducts of tobacco use, do to your circulatory system.
Additionally, if you already have a condition such as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), a potentially life threatening problem that restricts blood flow to your lower extremities, further damaging your circulatory system through tobacco usage can lead you to experience some devastating side effects. These include gangrene (which can lead to amputation) and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Everyone should quit smoking, but especially those individuals who are more likely to develop PAD (anyone over the age of 50, anyone with diabetes, anyone with high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol as well as African Americans.)
Still, I know tough it can be to kick this habit. Never fear, I’m here to help. Just keep reading for my top “Quitting in 2020” tips.
Your Easy 5-Step Plan to Give Up Smoking
Here are 5 ways to ease yourself into your “Quit Day.”
Step 1: Be Specific
Once you’ve decided to quit smoking, set a date and develop a plan. Visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help picking a plan that works for you.
Step 2: Solo = No Go
Quitting is easier with the support of family and friends. Tell them you’ve decided to quit, and give them specific ways in which they can be helpful. Seek out friends who have quit successfully and ask what worked for them.
Step 3: Keep busy
Replace smoking with healthy habits like exercise or active socializing. Make plans with non-smoking friends. And keep your mouth busy too: try chewing sugarless gum.
Step 4: Avoid triggers
Stay away from people, places and things that make you want to smoke. Throw out cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays, and frequent spots like restaurants where smoking is prohibited.
Step 5: Celebrate little victories
Your ultimate goal may be forever, but reward yourself for reaching mini-milestones like one smoke-free day, five days, one month etc.
With support and commitment, I know that you can do it. And if you need a little help getting to your personal ‘Quit day,’ feel free to reach out to myself or another healthcare provider. It’s our job to help you stay healthy, and supporting you through your breakup with tobacco is just one way in which we can achieve our goals of better health for all in this New Year!