Approximately 54 million Americans (one in six of us) have pre-diabetes, and most don’t even realize it.

It’s a sobering statistic, and Dr. Mark Schutta, medical director of the Penn Rodebaugh Diabetes Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, wants to spread the word during American Diabetes Month. He is urging at-risk adults to be proactive and visit their healthcare providers to request a simple blood test to determine whether blood glucose levels are higher than normal.

Diabetes affects the body’s ability to produce or respond properly to insulin, and it must be managed on a daily basis once diagnosed.

“If you have pre-diabetes, there’s a 75% probability that you will develop diabetes within 30 years,” Dr. Schutta says. “Our country is in the middle of a type-2 diabetes epidemic. Right now, if you’re born in the U.S., your risk of developing diabetes is one in three.”

Diabetes is a “silent killer.” In the disease’s early stages, people often have no symptoms. Risk factors include the following:

  • You have a known family history of diabetes.
  • You are African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian-American or Pacific Islander.
  • While pregnant, you developed gestational diabetes.
  • You delivered a baby who weighed more than 9 lbs.
  • You have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or are overweight.

According to Dr. Schutta, those with pre-diabetes can prevent the onset of diabetes through dietary changes and exercise. Eating a diet rich in organic whole grains, fiber, fruits and vegetables, while limiting consumption of refined sugar and flour, is the first step.

“There are many health benefits to knowing you have pre-diabetes and heading it off,” Dr. Schutta says. “If you wait until you have diabetes, the vascular damage to your body may already be done.”

World Diabetes Day is Nov. 14. Click here to take the American Diabetes Association’s Risk Test.