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Alcohol, Tobacco, and Diabetes

Alcohol and tobacco use are among the top causes of preventable deaths in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. People who use these substances have a high risk for developing serious health conditions including:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • A multitude of cancers
  • All types of chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis

An extensive study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry on July 11, 2013 revealed that the combination of smoking and drinking resulted in a 35% faster decline in cognitive function; in the brains of people who were heavy-drinking smokers, their brains aged the equivalent of 12 years for every 10 years they’d actually aged.

To top it all off, numerous studies have shown that alcohol and tobacco tend to be used together; people who smoke are more likely to drink, and people who drink are more likely to smoke.  So, if you drink and smoke, you’re increasing the odds of losing your brain capacity at an earlier age along with the myriad of possible diseases that may develop. That is a rather frightening thought when considering the risk factor becomes significantly higher for having to suffer these possible long-term consequences.

Have you ever noticed that for many people who try to quit smoking, their downfall becomes drinking alcohol? This is possibly because inhibitions are lowered, making a cigarette more difficult to resist.

Dependence on alcohol and tobacco has a strong correlation. Those who are dependent on drinking alcoholic beverages are said to be three times more likely than the general population to be smokers. People who are addicted to tobacco, are four times more likely than the general population to be dependent on alcohol. But where does this all fit in with diabetes?

Smoking and Diabetes

As we have shown, smoking and drinking obviously can have devastating effects on one’s health and well being. Smoking by itself is a major risk factor for developing numerous diseases, aging prematurely and causing a number of other conditions. To make things worse, the Centers for Disease Control reports that smokers with diabetes are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular-related complications than non-smokers with diabetes.

Smoking contributes significantly to the risk factors associated with Type 2 diabetes. Smoking contracts the blood vessels and arteries, allowing them to clog more easily. This in turn raises your blood pressure, and can also increase LDL, or “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels while lowering HDL, or “good” cholesterol levels.

Those who smoke and have diabetes are also more likely to develop vision problems including eye disease and possible vision loss as well as kidney damage. It increases the chances of developing a long list of other conditions as well including:

  • Nerve damage that could result in the amputation of a limb
  • Vascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Foot problems

Smoking just isn’t worth the risk. In our modern society we already have a plethora of chemicals and harmful substances around us constantly, so make the choice to remove one of the worst! If you are having trouble quitting, seek out help. There are prescriptions, acupuncture, therapy, patches, gums etc. A lot of people are having success with the new e-cigarettes to wean off of the real deal. Whatever works, go with it!

Alcohol and Diabetes

Some health experts say that drinking alcohol in moderation, meaning no more than one drink per day for women and two per day for men, is okay. Mostly this refers to alcohols such as red wine. However, considering the extensive research that has shown drinking is often paired with smoking, it may be better just to cut the alcohol out completely.

One of the main concerns with drinking alcohol if you have diabetes revolves around whether or not you are on any kind of insulin or medication. Alcohol is metabolized in your body by the liver, which is also extremely important in blood sugar regulation. If you are drinking too much alcohol, and your liver is working to metabolize it versus regulate your blood glucose, then your levels could fall to dangerous levels. You also have to be aware of what exactly you are drinking. Many alcoholic beverages are laden with sugars and simple carbs, which will wreak havoc on your blood levels. It would be extremely prudent to consult your doctor and see what kind of effects alcohol will have on your body with whatever medication or insulin you may be taking. Always err on the side of caution! Its never too little alcohol, but can certainly be too much.

The American Diabetes Association states that drinking alcohol is never a good choice for diabetics who have experienced nerve damage, eye disease, high blood pressure or high levels of triglycerides as it can increase the risk factor for further complications. For example, alcohol can cause further damage to nerve cells which can increase the pain, numbness or burning sensation linked to diabetic nerve damage. For those who are experiencing symptoms of eye disease, drinking can worsen this condition.

Changing Lifestyle Habits

If you have diabetes, it’s more important than ever to positively transform your lifestyle by eating a healthy diet as well as engaging in regular exercise on most days of the week. This will also help you in your effort to kick alcohol and tobacco habits. For those who continue to struggle, consider these tips for making it a bit easier to avoid smoking and drinking.

  • Add beneficial behaviors to compensate for eliminating bad habits. It’s much easier to kick a habit by focusing on developing a new, healthy one. Consider taking up a new activity or sport. Signing up for a class and learning something new can also be enough to keep your mind busy so that you won’t have time to think about those old habits.
  • You might need to reconsider hanging out with some of your friends, at least those who smoke and/or drink a lot. Oftentimes, once you’ve quit those habits you’ll find you have little left in common with those who still do. People who have been successful tend to naturally gravitate from old companions who have toxic habits, replacing them with friends who enjoy a cleaner, healthier lifestyle.
  • Consider practicing meditation or deep breathing exercises to help keep you feeling calm and boost self-confidence. This also increases the chances of being able to resist alcohol and tobacco as well as to improve general well-being, which in turn decreases the urge for unhealthy substances.
  • Create goals that will inspire you to want to be healthier. This could be career or personal goals, anything that makes you feel excited about living – and enjoying a higher quality of life.

Get Inspired

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow is a well-known health enthusiast, but she used to be a two-pack a day smoker. Her father died of cancer in 2002, but it wasn’t until she became pregnant with her first daughter in 2003 that she felt motivated enough to change her health. She did it by replacing bad habits with good ones.

Former “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston was a chain smoker for years. She attributes her success in quitting six years ago to getting involved in yoga. Today she exercises regularly and eats healthfully. Former “Sex and the City” actress Kristin Davis got sober at the age of 22 when she realized drinking was getting in the way of her acting aspirations. She felt it played a big part in helping her to achieve her career goals.

If you’re a diabetic and smoke, drink, or indulge in both, isn’t it time you took action?  Imagine the life you can have by making positive lifestyle changes!




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