Managing diabetes means much more than just taking daily glucose readings. One of the ways that your doctor may check to see how well your disease is being managed is with a HbA1c, or hemoglobin A1c test. Since glucose levels tend to fluctuate so much throughout the day, your doctor needs to have information that is as accurate as possible.
This is a simple blood test performed either in the doctor's office or in a lab that determines what your overall glucose levels have been over the past three months. Although home test kits are available, they are not as reliable as the lab versions.
There are several reasons why this test is only performed once every three months. One is because this is the recommendation of the American Diabetes Association. The other is due to the life expectancy of red blood cells. These cells are the ones that bind to glucose, and only survive in the body for approximately 90 days.
What is considered a normal reading? To put it into perspective, a normal reading for someone who doesn't have diabetes is between 4 and 6 percent. For diabetics, the range could be somewhere between 5-6 percent for younger adults all the way to 7-8 percent for an elderly patient. Your doctor will have to make the determination as to what your ideal score should be based on your profile.
While mild fluctuations in glucose levels are common and will not raise concerns, persistent increases or dips will register on the HbA1c test and will signal your doctor that a problem exists. The test is also useful in determining if you are on track for developing long-term complications from diabetes.