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Keep Diabetes Risk in Mind When Quitting Smoking

Written by Lisa Jillanza

stop smoking A large number of people resolve to quit smoking all over the world on a daily basis. We have all heard over and over again how bad smoking is for us and how it contributes to a number of health problems and risks. And while quitting smoking is a great resolution, a new study featured on CNN.com states that quitting smoking can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Despite this new finding, experts caution that the benefits of quitting smoking -- including a lower risk of heart attack and lung cancer -- far outweigh the risk of developing diabetes, which can be treated with diet, exercise, and medication. However, the risk is something to keep in mind as you're trying to quit smoking.

The study states that oftentimes when people quit smoking they have a tendency to gain weight, thereby making them a candidate for acquiring diabetes. The study followed 11,000 individuals without diabetes, where 45 percent of these individuals were smokers. After the nine year study, 1,254 people in the study developed type 2 diabetes. diabetes

To combat this risk doctors suggest paying extra attention to weight control and making other lifestyle changes if you have decided to quit smoking and want to decrease your risk of weight gain and developing type 2 diabetes.

Weight control is key, to counteract the increased risk of diabetes, people who quit smoking are encouraged to implement a series of lifestyle changes in consultation with their physicians.

Dr. Richard D. Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, recommends that people who quit smoking stick to small portions of low-fat, low-calorie foods. They should also get moving, he adds. "Even just moderate exercise -- like 30 minutes of brisk walking -- reduces the urges to smoke and reduces withdrawal symptoms," he says. "People are able to distract themselves, it makes them feel better, and it uses up some of the calories." Nicotine-replacement products may also be helpful since nicotine is largely responsible for the appetite-suppressing effect of cigarettes. Nicotine patches or gum deliver nicotine much more slowly than a cigarette, however, so to suppress appetite and prevent weight gain they may need to be administered in above-average doses, says Hurt, who was not involved in the new study.

If they are taken for at least three to six months, smoking cessation drugs such as bupropion, an atypical antidepressant sold as Zyban or Wellbutrin may also limit weight gain, Hurt says.

In addition to recommending lifestyle changes, it is suggested that physicians keep an eye on the blood glucose levels of patients who quit smoking, as elevated glucose levels can be a warning sign for type 2 diabetes.

Despite the study's findings, doctors are quick to emphasize that quitting smoking -- or better yet, never starting in the first place -- is far healthier than continuing to smoke, which can cause a host of deadly health problems ranging from heart disease to lung cancer.

“Type 2 diabetes is associated with smoking to begin with; this study found there's a 30 percent increased risk if you're a smoker compared to nonsmokers," he points out. "Stopping smoking increases that risk, but its way offset by the other health gains," explains Dr. Hurt.