What you need to know about HbA1c test

November 12, 2012

What you need to know about HbA1c test

This is a test that is not used for diagnostic purposes but rather as a control measure for patients already suffering with diabetes.

The HbA1C test is, in fact, not a test FOR diabetes but rather a test ON diabetics to measure how well they are controlling their sugar, or glucose, levels over a period of time. HbA1C is a chemical found in the blood which is formed when glucose attaches itself to the hemoglobin (or red blood cells) in the blood stream. Thus -

  • Red blood cells are made from the molecule hemoglobin.

  • Glucose effectively ‘sticks’ to the hemoglobin creating glycosylated hemoglobin’ molecules – referred to as A1C or HbA1C.

  • The higher the level of blood glucose the higher the level of HbA1C in the bloodstream.

Because red blood cells live for up to 12 weeks in the bloodstream before being replaced the HbA1C test can be used as an indicator of blood glucose levels over the 12 weeks preceding the test. -

  • Normal, non diabetic level should be 3.5 – 5.5%

  • Normal diabetic level should be 6.5%

  • A level over 7% indicates poor control of sugar in the diet.

The HbA1C test is probably the best way to keep a check on how well a patient’s diabetes is being controlled, it involves a simple blood test at your local surgery followed by testing of the blood in the laboratory.

Frequency of testing

After an initial diagnosis of diabetes is made it is advisable to have the HbA1C test done every three months, however once the patient has made the necessary adjustments to a diabetic lifestyle and is seen to have their glucose levels well controlled a test every 6 months is probably sufficient. This test is an excellent indicator for how diabetes is being controlled in a patient and levels may also predict the possibility of complications arising as a result of the diabetes, however, there is little point in patients who are not prepared to make the necessary changes to improve the control of their glucose levels in having this test.

Quality control

Because glucose levels are known to change rapidly – from minute to minute almost a glucoses level test is the best way of keeping a daily check on things, however the level of glycosylated hemoglobin molecules changes much more slowly which is why its’ role is more of a control one. Well controlled diabetes can produce benefits lasting up to ten years, a diabetic may struggle to control glucose levels which for them will rise more than usual, drop after exercise, rising after food and then much more after anything sugary. Learning how to lower the level of glycosylated hemoglobin’ molecules will not only improve the control of the diabetes but also will be beneficial to long term health.

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