Risks of Tobacco Use As We Age

It’s November, and you know what that means…. no, not Thanksgiving. It means it’s National Diabetes Awareness Month AND National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Okay, you’re right…it’s also Thanksgiving. However, as health professionals we thought there might be a reason these two major health issues where tied together in the same month of awareness.

What Are The Stats?


According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes affects nearly 30 million children and adults in the U.S. today. That’s nearly 10 percent of the population. Another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Recent estimates project that as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by 2050 unless steps are taken to prevent it.

Tobacco Use:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 42.1 million people in the United States smoke cigarettes. The American Cancer Society estimates in 2015 about 221,200 new cases of lung cancer and 158,040 deaths from lung cancer will occur. Lung cancer amounts for about 27% of all cancer deaths and is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women.

How Do These Two Relate?

National Lung Cancer Awareness month strives to educate Americans how smoking and tobacco can lead to many diseases, one of which being lung cancer. However, did you know smoking actually causes type 2 diabetes as well? Smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers. Smokers who have diabetes are more likely to have trouble with insulin dosing and controlling their disease in general as well.

People who have diabetes and smoke have higher risks for the following:
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Poor blood flow in the legs and feet that can lead to infections, ulcers, and possible amputation
  • Retinopathy, an eye disease that can cause blindness
  • Peripheral neuropathy, which is damaged nerves to the arms and legs that causes numbness, pain, weakness, and poor coordination

It is now plainer to see why diabetes and lung cancer are well suited to share the same awareness month. With a 40% more likely chance to develop diabetes, and the large risk of lung cancer, quitting is starting to sound a lot more like November.

Want to learn more about quitting? You will receive many health benefits and improvements upon quitting smoking. So, follow these tips to help quit and read about the benefits, they will blow you away.

Quitting smoking will greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and lung cancer, but there is still a great deal more you can do to honor National Diabetes Awareness month!

What Exactly Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease where blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, which is a sugar, and the body’s cells use it for energy. The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin that helps the glucose get into the body’s cells. When you have diabetes one of two things happens; either your body doesn’t make enough insulin or it can’t use the insulin very well. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes in adults and makes up more than 90% of all cases. Type 1 diabetes is less common and typically develops in children, adolescents, or young adults.

‘Good’ vs. Bad Sugars

Consuming sugar in large amounts has serious health consequences such as obesity, diabetes and increased risk of heart disease. However, you need carbohydrates, which include complex and simple sugars for your body to break down and convert to energy. In other words, sugars are necessary to keep you moving.

The three types of carbohydrates in your diet are sugar, starch, and fiber, all consisting of sugar. Simple sugars, such as sucrose, fructose, and lactose only have two molecules of sugar. Starch and fiber are complex carbohydrates because they’re made from three to hundreds of sugar molecules. During digestion, simple sugars and complex starches break down into single molecules of glucose. Starches take longer to digest because they contain more molecules of sugar. Simple sugars however, digest quickly, and can cause a spike in blood sugar.

Sugars that are added to foods cause you to consume calories without nutrients or fiber, these are known as ‘bad’ sugars. Bad sugars increase your risk of gaining weight as well as developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. When sugar enters your bloodstream, your pancreas releases insulin, which allows sugar to move into cells. When that happens, sugar stays in your blood, which increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Thanks for making it all the way through! Help spread the word about National Lung Cancer Awareness and National Diabetes Awareness Month.