BALTIMORE. (KFSN) --Twenty-nine million Americans have diabetes, putting them at risk for stroke and heart attack. But you probably didn't know that 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes, meaning they have elevated blood sugar. And because there are no signs, many don't even know they are at risk.
As an obstetrician, Dr. Robert Atlas knows the importance of monitoring his pregnant patients for signs of complications.
But two years ago, he found himself monitoring his own health complications after his doctor ordered bloodwork.
Dr. Atlas told Ivanhoe, "At that time, my blood sugar, since he had sent them, was 167 and I was like whoa, what's this?!"
People are diagnosed with diabetes if their fasting blood sugar levels are above 126, or if a test of red blood cells known as an A1C reads higher than 6.5. Pre-diabetes is blood sugar between 100 and 125, or an A1C between 5.5 and 6.4.
Amber Champion, MD, Director of the Diabetes Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore told Ivanhoe, "Often, if the blood sugars are borderline, people don't know."
Despite an active lifestyle, blood tests showed Atlas was pre-diabetic. He had no symptoms.
Alison Massey, RD, CDE, the Director of Diabetes Education at Mercy Medical Center says pre-diabetes is a red flag that it's time to make a change.
"We have research that supports that lifestyle change is so powerful at reducing your chance of developing type-two diabetes by about 50 percent," she explained.
Here are five changes you should make if you are pre-diabetic: first, if you're overweight, reduce your body weight by 10 percent. Exercise at least 30 minutes, five times a week. Limit or even eliminate sugary drinks. Try to make vegetables 50 percent of each meal. And finally, increase your fiber intake.
Atlas's weight swings between 185 and 216, and he knows at the lower end his diabetes risk goes down.
Since many patients don't know their blood sugar levels may be in the pre-diabetic range, Dr. Champion says people should be screened every three years for type-two diabetes starting at age 45. Those with a family history of diabetes, or who are overweight are at higher risk and may benefit from earlier screening.