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New campaign urges millions to check for prediabetes

Are you at risk from prediabetes? Millions of Americans are and don't even know it.

Prediabetes is a condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes, so stopping it is important. Now four big players in the world of health are joining forces to raise awareness and share prevention messages. They're using a little humor along the way, too.

Together, the American Diabetes Association, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Ad Council have launched the first national public service advertising (PSA) campaign to raise awareness about prediabetes.

"Eighty-six million people have prediabetes and only 10 percent know they have it," CDC Diabetes Translation Director Ann Albright told CBS News.

That's more than one in three Americans, she added. "No one is excused from prediabetes."

People with prediabetes have higher than normal blood glucose (sugar) levels, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The ad campaign walk people through a few questions so they can find out, even as they watch the videos, if they're at risk.

In one of the ads, a slightly goofy doctor asks viewers to count off on their hands, raising one finger at a time, every time they answer a question with a "yes."

The questions: Are you a man? Are you over 60? Are you inactive? Are you overweight? Does type 2 diabetes run in your family? And so on.

If you're holding up more than five fingers by the end of the ad, you need to see a doctor and get checked for prediabetes.

"People are actually taking action when they're viewing the PSA," said Albright.

In other ads, the doctor talks to some typical prediabetes patients - the busy mom, the guy stuck in traffic, the slightly tubby "bacon lover" - who are surprised to hear they're not exempt.

Now that you know the risk, a doctor can test your blood sugar and if it's elevated and you have prediabetes, prescribe a healthier diet and other lifestyle changes. Ignoring the risk can lead to type 2 diabetes and serious health problems down the road, she said.

Why the humorous tone of the ads? "This campaign, after a lot of focus testing and research with Ogilvy and Mather, the ad agency, and the Ad Council, we decided that humor was the way to go. It's lighter but it does grab peoples' attention," said Albright, who also noted that the campaign is directed at 40- to 60-year-olds. "It's a clever way of helping people see themselves."

The positive note is that if you do have prediabetes, it's reversible with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, said Albright.

People concerned about prediabetes can get more information at the campaign's website, doihaveprediabetes.org, and sign up for support via text message. Messages are sent periodically to help encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Albright said, "Fifteen to 30 percent of the people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years if they don't take action and get involved with lifestyle changes."

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    Mary Brophy Marcus covers health and wellness for CBSNews.com