A1C Testing for Diabetes Diagnosis and Care
My mother was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago and since then she has improved her diet by reducing sweets, alcohol and eating healthier foods. She is on blood sugar medication and goes to the doctor every three to four months for her hemoglobin A1C test. After her last doctors visit, she proudly came home and announced that her A1C level was 5.7. This was great news because when she diagnosed with diabetes, her A1C level was dangerously high at 12.
What is an A1C Test?
The hemoglobin A1C test measures a person’s average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. This is important to know because the higher your blood sugar level is, the higher your risk is in developing long-term complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, skin disease, nerve damage and vision loss. The test is usually performed at your doctor’s office but an A1C home test kit can be purchased where you would draw your own blood and either place the blood sample in a testing device or send it to a lab to get your test results.
What do the Numbers Mean?
In simple terms, the higher the number, the more sugar that you have in your blood.
Typically an A1C measurement below 5.7 is normal. A reading between 5.7 and 6.4 is considered prediabetic and a measurement of 6.5 or higher indicates diabetes. If you are diabetic, an A1C measurement of 7 or below is a common target goal.
Diabetics are advised to test their blood sugar one or more times a day so that they can treat a low or high blood sugar level immediately and it gives them feedback on how certain foods and exercise affect their blood sugar for that moment in time. The American Diabetes Association provides data on how the A1C levels corresponds to the estimated average blood glucose or eAG:
How Does Your Body Keep a History of Your Average Blood Sugar?
The sugars and carbohydrates from the foods that we eat are broken down into glucose (sugar). The glucose enters the bloodstream and it is the job of the insulin hormone to regulate the glucose and to move it out of the bloodstream and into most of the cells in our body to be used for energy. If you are diabetic, your body does not produce or properly use insulin. This leads to high blood glucose levels in the bloodstream.
Attached to your blood cells is a protein called hemoglobin that carries oxygen from your lungs to your cells. When you have too much glucose in your bloodstream, the extra glucose attaches to the hemoglobin molecules. This sugar-coated hemoglobin is referred to as hemoglobin A1C or A1C and it is easy to measure. The A1C stays in your blood for a 2 to 3 months which is why you can track your glucose over time.
How the A1C Test Helps in Diabetes Diagnosis and Care
An A1C test result will diagnose diabetes. If you experience any of the symptoms of diabetes, it is recommended to get an A1C test done as early detection and treatment of diabetes can help prevent long-term health complications. Common symptoms of diabetes are frequent urination and thirst, blurry vision, extreme hunger, weight loss and fatigue. Unfortunately, these symptoms are often not dramatic and millions of people are unaware that they are diabetic.
After a person is diagnosed as being prediabetic or diabetic, the A1C test is recommended 2 to 4 times a year. Keep in mind that it is not a replacement for daily glucose monitoring but it will give feedback on whether a diabetic treatment plan is working.
Both my mom and husband are diabetic. I have witnessed the motivating factor as well for the A1C test result. A competition has involved between the two as to who owns the bragging rights to the lower A1C level. Silly as it may seem, I believe it gives both of them the extra push that they need to continue with their healthier lifestyle.
A1C Home Test Kit
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(price as of Jun 5, 2016)