Diabetes: The Silent Killer

Sneaky and silent - two adjectives health care providers use when talking about type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 30 million people have type 2 diabetes and seven million are currently undiagnosed.

Diabetes can sneak up on you.

Type 2 diabetes develops over time. Laurie Sandberg, B.S.N., RN, CDE, of Meritus Endocrinology Specialistssays, “Blood sugars increase slowly and gradually. You typically don’t wake up one day with a blood sugar level of 300.”

With type 2 diabetes, your body becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas is unable to produce the amount of insulin you need to control your blood sugar. Individuals with diabetes have too much glucose or blood sugar in their bloodstream which can negatively affect the whole body, including the cardiovascular system, circulation, eyesight and kidney function.

Diabetes is the silent killer.

People with type 2 diabetes often have no symptoms at first.

“Symptoms can be mild or absent initially,” says Sandberg. “Later, as the blood sugar approaches 250-300 Mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter), a person may experience fatigue, weight loss, excessive thirst, constant hunger and frequent urination.”

Health care professionals say a person can have type 2 diabetes for years without knowing it. You should pay close attention to red flags such as increased urination, increased thirst, blurry vision, slow healing sores or frequent infections.

You may be at risk.

Several risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes include:

  • Family history
  • Ethnicity – Pacific Islander, African American
  • Older than age 45
  • High blood pressure
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Body mass index above 25 or waist size larger than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women
  • Physically inactive

“Prediabetes is when your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes,” says Sandberg. A normal fasting blood sugar range is between 70 and 99. Diabetes is diagnosed with a fasting blood sugar more than 125, but a range between 100 and 125 Mg/dL is considered prediabetes.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that 84 million people have prediabetes.

“The good news is if you discover high blood sugar early, many who lose weight and increase their physical activity can prevent or delay the disease — and in some cases return their blood glucose to normal levels,” says Sandberg.

Reduce your risk.

Consider these steps to reduce your risk of developing diabetes:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat well
  • Be active
  • Get screened for type 2 diabetes each year

“Being diagnosed with diabetes can be challenging at first, but with education and support, control is always possible,” says Sandberg. “Understanding how to make healthy food choices, schedule physical activity into your day and monitor blood glucose are strategies that can help you keep your blood sugar numbers under control and avoid complications.”

The diabetes death rate in Washington County, Maryland, tops all other counties in the state. If you think you’re at risk for developing diabetes, talk to your primary care provider right away.

Meritus Health, at 11116 Medical Campus Road, east of Hagerstown, is the largest health system in the area, providing hospital and outpatient services to the community. Subscribe to Your Health Matters, a monthly e-newsletter with important health information, at