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Heavy Smoking May Boost Blacks' Diabetes Risk

SUNDAY, Nov. 13, 2016 -- Black Americans who smoke a pack or more a day of cigarettes may be at higher risk for diabetes, a new study finds.

"Smoking cessation should be strongly encouraged in blacks with risk factors for diabetes," concluded a team led by Wendy White, a health science professor at Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Miss.

The researchers tracked outcomes for nearly 3,000 black participants enrolled in the Jackson Heart study. During the study, 466 of the participants were diagnosed with diabetes.

The risk of diabetes was similar among those who smoked less than a pack a day, former smokers and those who never smoked, the researchers found.

However, "high intensity" smokers -- who smoked a pack or more a day -- had a 62 percent greater risk of developing diabetes, White's team found. The study couldn't prove that smoking caused the diabetes, but it did point to an association.

One diabetes expert wasn't surprised by the findings, and said it probably extends beyond black populations.

"It has been known for years that smoking increases the risk for vascular complications or aggravates current complications with or without diabetes," said Dr. Gerald Bernstein. "The authors suggest that their finding also indicates a greater risk for developing diabetes.

"I would question as to whether or not this is exclusive to the black population, as opposed to whites," added Bernstein, who coordinates the Friedman Diabetes Program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Patricia Folan directs the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She said the consequences for people who develop diabetes can be dire.

"Individuals with diabetes often experience a variety of diabetes-related health concerns and complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, amputations and eye disorders," she said.

"Practitioners and diabetes educators should design and provide tailored smoking cessation programs for this vulnerable population of smokers," Folan said, "to help them avoid the development of diabetes -- as well as the detrimental outcomes."

The study was to be presented Sunday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting, in New Orleans. Findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.

Posted: November 2016


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