LIVING WITH DIABETES: QUESTIONS ABOUT SMOKING AND ALCOHOL

Are there any special problems for people with diabetes who smoke?

Yes. People with diabetes of course run the same risk as anyone else from the harmful effects of smoking on the lungs and on the heart. In addition, cigarette smoking affects the same small blood vessels that can also be affected by diabetes. Smoking makes the effects of diabetes worse still, may hasten the process of damage to blood vessels to the eye, kidneys and heart.

There have been some research studies that have shown that young people with diabetes who smoke already have more damage to the kidneys than those who don’t.

For all these reasons, I urge people of all ages with diabetes — don’t smoke cigarettes.

What effect does alcohol have on diabetes?

This depends on how much you have. The dangers of excessive alcohol are well known and are the same for people with diabetes as anyone else. People with diabetes can have moderate amounts of alcohol, particularly with meals, without harm.

There are additional special problems for the person who has diabetes and who drinks to excess. Firstly, if he becomes intoxicated and vomits this will certainly upset diabetic control. Secondly, alcohol taken without carbohydrate can lead to hypoglycemia and this can even happen in someone who has not got diabetes. Thirdly, it can be hard to distinguish between someone who has been drinking and who is having a hypo, from someone who is just drunk. Thus the hypo may go unrecognized and untreated. Fourthly, many alcoholic drinks are mixed with soft drinks or have significant sugar content and thus very high blood glucose levels may develop.

Refer to the list of alcoholic drinks, check the carbohydrate value of common alcoholic drinks. If you do drink, do so in moderation and on social occasions, and have proper meals with the alcohol. Count the exchange value of the alcoholic drinks if they contain significant carbohydrate.

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