ATLANTA - If you're just too busy to go to the doctor, you may want to rethink that.
Preventive medicine specialist Dr. Christine Horner, author of the book "Radiant Health Ageless Beauty," says your yearly checkups could help you spot a serious illness you might have overlooked.
"Because there are many diseases that start out with absolutely no symptoms," Dr. Horner says.
High blood pressure is one of those illnesses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly a third of U.S. adults have hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure.
One out of every 5 of those people doesn't know it.
"It's even called "the silent killer," because there are absolutely no symptoms with it," Horner says.
Hypertension greatly increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
So, Horner says, get your blood pressure checked regularly.
"If they find that you have high blood pressure, you can just get a cuff yourself," she says. "I got one from Amazon for $20."
You may need medication to lower your blood pressure.
To lower stress, Horner recommends meditation, yoga or using "gratitude" cards.
"And you can just put them in a bowl and just pick them out every morning," Dr. Horner says. "You think about what you're grateful for and that sets the tone for the whole day and keeps your blood pressure down."
Sleep apnea is another "silent" health threat.
"Sleep apnea means that you stop breathing for several seconds," Dr. Horner says. "The danger of that is that it increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes. All of these things are inter-related."
If you're waking up tired or feeling sleepy during the day, talk to your physician.
Sleep apnea is typically diagnosed with a sleep study performed in a lab.
If you're diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may need to wear a C-PAP mask to reopen your airways during sleep.
The third hidden health hazard you can't afford to ignore is diabetes.
"For people over 65 over, one quarter have diabetes," Horner says.
The CDC says more than 100 million Americans now have diabetes or pre-diabetes, and up to third don't know it.
Most of those cases, 90 to 95 percent, are type 2 diabetes, linked to being overweight.
"So, the great news is it's really reversible if you improve your diet and lifestyle," Dr. Horner says. "There was a recent study that showed that Vitamin D plays a huge role in your risk of developing diabetes."
Get your Vitamin D levels checked, Horner recommends.
If you're running low on Vitamin D, ask your doctor if you need a supplement.