Diabetes Self-Management Blog

You may already know that smoking increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes, and that it can increase a person’s risk of diabetes complications such as circulation problems, nerve damage, and kidney disease. A recent study, however, looked at people with Type 1 diabetes and found a link between smoking and severe hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood glucose levels).

The study, published in the June issue of the journal Diabetes Care, analyzed data collected from 537 people with Type 1 diabetes who participated in the Wisconsin Epidemiologic Study of Diabetic Retinopathy. The researchers divided these people into three groups: those who had never smoked (58%), those who had smoked in the past but quit successfully at least one year before the study (27%), and those who currently smoked (15%).

After adjusting for factors such as age, sex, HbA1c, alcohol consumption, waist-to-hip ratio, intensive insulin treatment, and history of severe hypoglycemia, the researchers found that people who currently smoked had almost three times the risk of experiencing severe hypoglycemia than those who had never smoked. For the purposes of the study, severe hypoglycemia was defined as loss of consciousness or being hospitalized overnight because of hypoglycemia.

The researchers theorized that smoking may possibly cause too much insulin to build up in the blood, leading to low blood glucose levels. In addition, smoking can increase the body’s secretion of certain hormones that work against the action of insulin, leading smokers to need to inject more insulin, thereby increasing their risk of hypoglycemia.

For an online guide and support system for quitting smoking, please visit www.smokefree.gov.

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