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Know Everything about HbA1c test

HbA1c test is used to measure the sugar level in your blood over the past three months. Doctors use this test to diagnose diabetes and pre-diabetes.

Managing diabetes means keeping track of your blood sugar levels. This can be achieved with an HbA1c test, also known as haemoglobin A1c, A1c or Glycated Hemoglobin. This test measures the average glucose levels in your blood over the previous three months. For those living with diabetes, this test is important to monitor and understand their blood sugar levels.

The test is measured in three ranges, normal, low and high. This blog will discuss all three HbA1c test range.By the end of this blog, you will understand what the ranges mean for your health and diabetes management.

What is HbA1c
The HbA1c test is the average amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood over the prior three months. If your results are higher, it means you have high blood glucose levels.

This test is mainly used to:

  • Detect prediabetes
  • Diagnose Type 2 diabetes
  • Manage the treatment plan for individuals with Type 2 diabetes or Type 1 diabetes. The test results help your provider comprehend if your treatment is working or needs alterations.

A1C tests can be conducted in two ways:

  • Your blood sample is taken from your vein and sent to a lab for analysis.
  • A healthcare provider takes blood through a finger prick. The results can be checked within minutes. This form of the test is only used for monitoring and does not account for diagnosis.

How Is HbA1c Different From a Normal Blood Sugar Test
Glucose, a form of sugar derived from the foods you consume, is primarily present in carbohydrates. The cells within your body rely on glucose as a fundamental energy source. Facilitating the entry of glucose into these cells is insulin, a vital hormone. However, individuals with diabetes face challenges, as their bodies either produce insufficient insulin or struggle to utilize it effectively. Consequently, their blood sugar levels surge, creating a condition known as hyperglycemia.

When your blood sugar levels rise, the excess sugar in your bloodstream binds to a protein called haemoglobin found in your red blood cells. As a consequence, haemoglobin becomes coated with glucose. To gauge the extent of this glycation process, medical professionals use an A1C test, which measures the percentage of red blood cells featuring glucose-coated haemoglobin.

A normal blood sugar test specifically checks your current sugar levels. An A1c test can show your average sugar level for the past three months.

A1c tests can give you precise results for the following reasons:

  • Glucose clings to haemoglobin throughout the lifespan of red blood cells.
  • The lifespan of red blood cells is approximately three months.

When Would I Need An HbA1c Test
If you have diabetes, it is essential to undergo an HbA1c test at least twice a year to oversee your health status and treatment regimen. Your healthcare provider will advise you on the specific frequency of this test that suits your individual needs.

If you do not have diabetes but exhibit the following symptoms, you should consider undergoing this test:

  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Increased urination

People at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes should also consider undergoing this test. The major risk factors are:

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Lack of movement
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Being over age 35

HbA1c Test Ranges: What’s Normal, High, and Low

  • Normal level: Below 5.7%
  • Pre-diabetes level: Between 5.7% to 6.4%
  • Diabetes: 6.5% or more

Individuals with a normal HbA1c test range should still undergo testing every three years. For those with diabetes, normal results typically fall within 7% or lower. It’s important to consult your healthcare provider to determine what is considered normal for your specific circumstances.

If you are in a pre-diabetic state, annual HbA1c testing is recommended, along with implementing lifestyle changes and incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine.

For individuals with diabetes, biannual HbA1c testing is advisable to closely monitor their health and adhere to the treatment plan prescribed by their healthcare provider. This treatment plan may encompass medication and insulin as well as lifestyle adjustments, including exercise and a balanced diet.

How Is HbA1c Test Done
The HbA1c test is administered by a phlebotomist who collects a blood sample from your vein. The process involves disinfecting the area, using a sterile needle to extract the blood, and transferring it into a collection tube for analysis. This procedure is virtually painless and typically takes less than 5 minutes.

Alternatively, a finger prick test can be performed, in which your healthcare provider will puncture your finger with a lancet, collecting a drop of blood in a plastic container for testing. Results are rapidly obtained using a specialized device.

Preparation For The Test
Preparation for the HbA1c test is minimal; there is no need for fasting or dietary restrictions, and the test can be conducted at any time of the day.

In conclusion, managing HbA1c levels, whether too high or too low, can be a source of concern. Individuals with diagnosed diabetes should aim for a blood sugar range of 7% or lower, while those with pre-diabetes can benefit from lifestyle changes, including a balanced diet and regular exercise. It’s essential to have this test performed twice annually to effectively monitor your health.

Keep in mind that certain factors, such as medications, vitamin B12 deficiency, or anaemia, can affect test results, so consult your doctor for further guidance. Discuss your treatment plan and A1C goals with your healthcare provider to ensure optimal health management.

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