What Does my HbA1C Tell Me?
The HbA1c blood test, more commonly known as the A1C, is both a very useful and a very cool calculation of your average blood glucose levels over a three-month period.
What makes it useful is that it offers a measure of how much glucose has been in the blood over an extended period of time. What makes it cool is how it works.
How Does the Test Work?
Hemoglobin cells in the blood contain iron and transport oxygen throughout the body. These cells also interact with glucose in the bloodstream. As they remain in contact with glucose they become glycated, a big word that simply means they become coated with layers of glucose cells.
When an A1C test is done, it measures the thickness of this coating. By doing so, it determines how much glucose the hemoglobin cells have encountered over a three-month period (the length of time a hemoglobin cell lives). That measurement is used to determine average glucose levels over this period.
What Do the Results Mean?
The A1C levels are used to determine the level of control a person has over diabetes – or even whether he or she has diabetes at all.
A1C readings between 4 and 5.6 percent indicate the person tested does not have any indication of diabetes. A1C readings between 5.7 and 6.4 percent indicate an increased risk of diabetes. This is often referred to as being pre-diabetic. A1C readings of 6.5 percent or above indicate active diabetes.
A diabetic should attempt to maintain an A1C level of 7 percent or lower. That level is an indication that diabetes is well-managed and that blood glucose levels have remained fairly constant. Readings above this level will result in the physician prescribing more aggressive actions to bring the sugar levels under control, in order to head off any future complications from uncontrolled sugar levels.
How Often Should I Get this Test Done?
The A1C test is a non-fasting test done from a blood sample. For active diabetics, the test should be run every three months. For those at risk of developing diabetes, it should be run at least twice each year.
Diabetics know that it is important to manage their disease in order to prevent future health issues. Regular testing of A1C levels is a critical part of that management.