November is a month of health observances with many of them related to smoking and tobacco use. Everyone has probably heard of the Great American Smokeout that took place on the third Thursday of this month, but other observances including American Diabetes Month, COPD Awareness Month, and Lung Cancer Awareness Month also need our attention.
The human body is a marvelous machine that automatically keeps systems in check and balance, but sometimes it doesn’t work as it should. When your body is working correctly, the pancreas makes a hormone called insulin that allows the cells in your body to use sugar from the carbohydrates you eat for energy. Since sugar can’t be absorbed by the cells, insulin is released into the blood, and converts it to glucose to be absorbed by the body. If you don’t need the sugar, it is stored in your liver until the next time you need it. When your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, your blood sugar increases which can create problems over time. According to the American Diabetes Association, this is the most common form of diabetes called type 2. What does this have to do with tobacco? Most people aren’t aware that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco contain high amounts of sugar that contribute to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and may make it difficult to maintain good blood sugar levels. Nicotine also affects hormone levels and since insulin is a hormone, it could also affect insulin levels. You can learn more about diabetes by clicking the link for the American Diabetes Association.
The main cause of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is smoking, but even nonsmokers can develop this disease through environment exposures such as air pollution, secondhand smoke, and exposure to chemicals. COPD is a group of progressive lung diseases with the most common being emphysema, which “slowly destroys the air sacs in your lungs’, and chronic bronchitis, which “causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes and allows mucus to build up.” There is no cure yet for COPD, but treatment can help ease the symptoms and improve your quality of life. You can learn more about COPD from the COPD Foundation.
Lung Cancer Awareness Month is also taking place in November and it is important to know that smoking causes 80-85% of lung cancers in the U.S., according to the Lung Cancer Alliance. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women, and the risk increases the longer you smoke and the more you smoke. Lung cancer can also develop from being exposed to radon, (the second-leading cause of lung cancer), asbestos, and even secondhand smoke. Many smokers are turning to e-cigarettes thinking they are a healthier alternative; however, not enough is known regarding the potential for possible lung damage from the chemicals in the flavorings.
Everyone has their reasons why they started to smoke, but quitting will reduce the risks of developing any of the above diseases as well as others. It is not too late to improve your health and reverse the effects of smoking.
Click on the highlighted links in each paragraph to learn more about each of these topics.