Quitting smoking provides many health benefits including reduced risk of lung cancer and heart disease. But a new study indicates that heavy smokers who quit are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, mostly due to the weight gain that accompanies quitting.
The study researchers stress, however, that the benefits of quitting smoking outweigh the increased risk for diabetes and encourage smokers and their doctors to prevent excessive weight gain through diet and exercise.
The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that smokers had a higher risk for diabetes than those who have never smoked. However, among smokers who quit, the risk for diabetes was highest within three years of quitting and decreased to no excess risk after about 10 years. The findings were based on nearly 11,000 initially diabetes-free middle-aged adults.
Healthy Eating for Smokers
Smokers have unhealthier eating habits and may benefit from dietary improvements. According to a study published, only 20% of smokers eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Although most smokers recognized the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, fewer smokers than non-smokers believed that eating the recommended five servings a day would reduce their risk of diabetes. Because it is difficult to kick the habit—less than 3% of smokers in the US successfully quit using tobacco each year—smokers should consider starting to eat a healthier diet before quitting to maintain a healthy weight throughout the quitting process.
Exercise Reduces Diabetes Risk
Numerous studies show that various types of physical activity improve health outcomes for those at risk for diabetes. Although doctors recommend 60 to 90 minutes per week of aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming, and bicycling, less strenuous activities such as walking, dancing, and climbing stairs can also provide great benefit. One study showed that home workouts using cans as hand-held weights and other everyday objects are just as effective as gym equipment in helping reduce diabetes risk.
Quitting is the Best Decision
Smokers should consider quitting to improve their overall health. To help reduce their increased risk of developing diabetes, they should seek lifestyle counseling that includes eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly to compliment smoking cessation. It is also important to note that the best way to reduce the risk for smoking-related diabetes is not to start smoking. For information on quitting, visit here.