Talk With Your Patients About Diabetes and Smoking

How diabetes and smoking are connected and how to help patients quit.

As a health care provider, you have the power to guide your patients toward healthier lifestyles — and when it comes to diabetes prevention and management, addressing tobacco use is a requirement.

Studies have shown that smoking is one of the leading causes of Type 2 diabetes — and the likelihood increases with every cigarette. Understanding the link between the two can help you have more meaningful and effective conversations with your patients about quitting tobacco.

For Patients at Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

For Patients at Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

If you have a patient who smokes, it’s important to tell them the truth: Smoking only increases their risk of diabetes. Tobacco and nicotine use can lead to:

  • Higher cortisol levels
  • Decreased blood flow
  • Increased blood sugar
  • The build-up of plaque in arteries
  • Elevated heart rate

Smoking also causes more inflammation in the body because cigarette smoke injures healthy cells. This stress combined with the increased risk of abdominal obesity (which is also caused by tobacco) and the health effects mentioned above can fast track the development of diabetes.

Diabetes can also cause heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage — and unfortunately, its effects are irreversible. Once a patient is diagnosed, their outcome will depend on how well they manage their insulin, take medication and make drastic dietary changes. However, within 20 minutes of quitting tobacco, their heart rate will decrease. Within the first year of quitting, they’ll experience a higher quality of life all around — from a better sense of taste and smell to their risk of heart disease being cut in half!

The best thing you can do for these patients is encourage them to quit tobacco.

For Patients With Diabetes

For Patients With Diabetes

If you have patients with diabetes who also smoke, it is imperative to encourage them to quit. Nicotine, the chemical keeping them addicted, increases their blood pressure and hardens their blood vessels — making insulin less effective. Those with diabetes who smoke oftentimes must rely on higher doses of insulin just to maintain their blood sugar level, which can be a pricey and difficult experience.

Patients with diabetes who smoke are also more likely to suffer from health complications such as:

  • Heart disease or failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Poor blood circulation, which can lead to ulcers, infection and even amputation of the feet or legs
  • Retinopathy, which is an eye disease linked to blindness
  • Nerve damage in the arms and legs, which can lead to weakness, numbness, pain and poor coordination

Even after diagnosis, quitting smoking can make diabetes more manageable for patients and reduce their risk of permanent and life-threatening complications. 

For All Patients Looking To Make A Change

For All Patients Looking To Make A Change

No matter their age, the reason they use tobacco or their product of choice, the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline has FREE resources to help your patients quit, including:

  • A free supply of patches, gum or lozenges
  • Coach support through text messages or phone calls
  • Online resources such as a personalized Dashboard, live group sessions and encouraging emails
  • Quit tips and craving busters to help fight temptation

The Helpline also offers additional resources and information for new moms and SoonerCare members who are looking to quit.

Remember: You play an important role in improving your patients’ wellbeing. Encourage them to make healthy, life-altering changes through the Helpline. All they have to do is sign up! 


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