By now you know that smoking can wreck your health. Smoking causes numerous types of cancer and lung conditions, prematurely ages your skin, and yellows your teeth. It also puts you at increased risk for heart disease and stroke and for insulin resistance, and may even make you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Diabetes alone already puts you at increased risk for heart disease and stroke - you are 2 to 4 times as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as someone who doesn't have diabetes. But if you have diabetes and you smoke, take those dangers and multiply them. You get the picture: the risk is paramount.

If you're one of the approximately 22% of people with diabetes who smoke, you will hear this message from your health care team, your loved ones, and pretty much anyone else who finds out: you must quit smoking!

Why is smoking worse for someone with diabetes? When you have diabetes, you are already at a much higher risk for cardiovascular problems, including heart disease, heart attack, and poor circulation. People with diabetes who smoke are 3 times as likely to suffer a heart attack as people with diabetes who don't smoke. Light up with cigarettes and the damages can spread like wildfire:

  • Smoking decreases the levels of oxygen in your blood, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
  • Smoking increases blood pressure and cholesterol, two major factors leading to heart disease.
  • Smoking damages blood vessels, reducing circulation that feeds blood to your heart, brain, kidneys, eyes, legs, and feet. Erectile dysfunction in men is also partly related to poor circulation.
  • Smoking boosts blood glucose and makes your levels difficult to control.

What are the benefits of quitting? A whole host of health benefits await you once you quit! Your blood pressure will decrease soon after your last cigarette, your cholesterol levels will improve, and your circulation will begin to recover. Your risk of heart disease will start to decrease the longer you remain smokefree, and levelling out your blood glucose will become simpler. Though you can't erase the risks that come along with your diabetes, quitting can help prevent or delay complications associated with diabetes.

How does one quit smoking? No doubt about it: Quitting smoking challenges even the most strong-willed and disciplined among us. The nicotine in cigarettes triggers changes in brain chemistry, and smoking becomes a true addiction, not just some silly habit to break. Expect uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms for a little while. Expect relapse, but don't dwell on it. All the work and strain will be worth it because quitting will be one of the best things you'll ever do for yourself, for your diabetes management, and for your health overall.

To ease yourself away from an addiction takes a solid plan and solid support:

  • Quitting smoking: methods and medications that can help
  • Methods for quitting
  • Resources to help you quit
  • After smoking: the road to recovery
  • Tips for staying smokefree