6 Things to Know About the “Silent Killer” Sabotaging Your Health
Joyce Knestrick, PhD, CRNP, FAANP
More than 100 million Americans are affected by diabetes, and an astounding number have no idea. Only one in four people with full blown diabetes are aware of their condition, and only one in 10 with prediabetes know they’re heading down a dangerous path. Aptly known as the silent killer because there are often no symptoms, unchecked diabetes causes numerous serious health complications; but there’s good news: Diabetes is largely preventable and treatable. In fact, people who effectively manage their diabetes can often reverse the condition, or at the very least, keep it from progressing.
Awareness is the first step to better health, and the simple lack of awareness when it comes to diabetes is by far the biggest challenge. Here are the six basic facts everyone should know about diabetes.
- You may be high risk. If diabetes runs in your family or if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, smoke or are physically inactive, you may fall in the high-risk category and need to be screened earlier and more often. Talk to a nurse practitioner (NP) about what makes sense for you.
- Your lifestyle matters. 90 percent of diabetes cases could be avoided by controlling weight, staying physically active, eating a healthy diet and not smoking.
- There are subtle warning signs. Extreme thirst, dry mouth, frequent urination, itchy skin, blurry vision and yeast infections are all easily overlooked symptoms.
- What you don’t know may be killing you. Even advanced diabetes can have no warning signs and left untreated, dramatically increases your risk for stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure, nerve damage and blindness. If you’ve never been checked for diabetes, you may be unknowingly suffering.
- Your NP can help. You should be screened every three years starting at age 45 and sooner if you have risk factors like family history, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If you find that you have diabetes or prediabetes, your NP can help you get it in check.
- Prediabetes does not mean you will get diabetes. People with prediabetes who eat healthier and exercise regularly can bring their blood sugar levels back within normal range. On the flip side, 30 percent of people who don’t make any lifestyle changes will develop diabetes within five years.
The main takeaway here is diabetes is a major problem for Americans, and too many people suffer from serious complications that could have been avoided if only they had been tested and took the necessary steps to manage their condition. Every 21 seconds, another person is diagnosed with diabetes, and right now, eight million people are unknowingly walking around with some form of the condition, mainly because they don’t know they’re at risk and haven’t seen a provider, like a NP, to get basic things like their blood sugar checked.
It’s time to stop this runaway train that has hijacked more 30 million Americans and threatens 70 million others. Better awareness and an easy test can tell you all you need to know. And if you are the one in three who have diabetes or prediabetes, simple lifestyle changes can literally save your life.