More than 130 million American adults currently live with diabetes or prediabetes, making it one of the most common conditions in the country. Prediabetes specifically refers to blood sugar levels that are higher than average, but are not high enough to be officially diagnosed as diabetes.
However, there’s good news: unlike diabetes, prediabetes is reversible. If you have it, you still have time to improve your diet, exercise, and lifestyle for the better. For smokers, this is a good time to let go of the habit. This is because smoking is a major factor in the development of diabetes.
If you’re still on the fence about quitting smoking, read on to discover how it impacts your chances of developing diabetes — and what you can do about it while you still have time.
The relationship between smoking and diabetes
There are two types of diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, immune cells attack and destroy cells that produce insulin — the hormone that manages your blood sugar levels. Meanwhile, Type 2 diabetes is a longer-term condition where bodies cannot use insulin and control blood sugar levels properly. So where does smoking come in? The FDA claims that cigarette smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Cigarette smoke contains compounds like acrolein, carbon monoxide, and reactive oxygen species or ROS. Once inhaled, they cause inflammation while also mixing with oxygen to create oxidative stress. The compounds mentioned above are also immodulatory, which means they suppress your immune system. The effects can injure your cells, cause them to malfunction, and ultimately increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
What you can do about it
Given the harmful ingredients within cigarettes, quitting smoking is ultimately the best way to eliminate that increased risk of developing diabetes. This can be a difficult feat to accomplish, which is why you may want to go about it slowly. One of the best ways to do so is by switching to smoke- and tobacco-free nicotine alternatives. For this, you may want to consider nicotine pouches or patches.
Nicotine pouches are relatively new and are emerging as the better oral nicotine option. This slim sachet of nicotine can be placed discreetly between the gum and the upper lip, where its effects kick in immediately much like nicotine gum. However, it has greater longevity of up to an hour. Pouches come in varying strengths depending on how much you used to smoke. Pouch provider Prilla details that understanding what strength to begin with comes down to how bad your smoking habit was. If you used to smoke before eating breakfast, start with higher-strength nicotine pouches — otherwise, go for lower strengths instead.
This classic option works by delivering nicotine to the bloodstream through your skin in small and consistent amounts over time. This means that one patch can last for a full 24 hours. However, it can take a few hours for it to take effect — so you may want to use nicotine pouches to combat any immediate nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine patches also come in varying strengths. Men’s Health suggests that nicotine patch brands like Habitrol are great for light smokers and even provides resources for smokers who want to quit. Meanwhile, heavy smokers may prefer NicoDerm HQ.
Prediabetes is a worrying diagnosis, but it doesn’t have to be. Understanding the relationship between smoking and diabetes can help you remedy your own habits — and you can take the next steps toward living your life to the fullest.
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