Diabetes has become a worldwide epidemic, with cases on the rise in both developing and developed nations. The American Diabetes Association, International Expert Committee, and the World Health Organization recommend using the HbA1c test to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes.
Now that Wheel of Life™ supports HbA1c tracking, let’s dig deeper into it.
This simple blood test gives a snapshot of the average blood sugar level over the previous 2 – 3 months. It is also used to help people who have already been diagnosed with diabetes better manage their condition. Higher A1c levels have been linked to several health complications. People at risk for developing diabetes can also use the HbA1c test to track their levels and make the necessary changes to potentially prevent the disease altogether.
How an HbA1c Test Works
Glucose is the sugar present in your blood. When that glucose builds up, it will bind to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The HbA1c test measures how much glucose has attached itself to red blood cells. If the levels are high, it may be a sign of diabetes. If a person has already been diagnosed with diabetes, an HbA1c test can help them monitor their condition and glucose levels over time.
The test is very easy and requires no previous preparation. Unlike some other tests for diabetes, it does not require fasting, and anybody can take it any time of day. A health care professional will take a blood sample from the arm and send it to a lab for analysis.
Interpreting the Results
For people who do not have diabetes, the normal range for an HbA1c level is between 4% – 5.6%. Levels between 5.7% – 6.4% indicate prediabetes. If levels are 6.5% or higher, the person likely has diabetes. Diabetes is a serious and chronic condition that can lead to heart and kidney disease as well as nerve damage.
A person that has already been diagnosed with diabetes, should aim for an HbA1c level of 6.5% or below. Those at risk for developing type 2 diabetes will want results that come back at 6% or lower. If the levels are high, the doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to help lower levels to a healthier range.
When to Get an HbA1c Test
It’s recommended by the CDC that all adults over the age of 45 take a baseline HbA1c test. If the results are normal, the test should be repeated every three years. If they indicate prediabetes, the person should get tested every 1 to 2 years. People who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will typically get an HbA1c test at least twice a year.
An HbA1c test is crucial to help detect and prevent diabetes. The sooner elevated levels are diagnosed, the quicker the person can implement lifestyle changes to bring those levels down. Remember, reducing risk for developing diabetes is also beneficial to overall health and wellbeing.
The Benefits of Lowering HbA1c
According to the Global Diabetes Community in the UK, people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes reduced their risk for complications such as neuropathy and kidney disease by improving their HbA1c level by 1%. Research also showed that by lowering levels by 1%, people with type 2 diabetes were less likely to suffer from cataracts, heart failure, or experience an amputation due to peripheral vascular disease. Lowering HbA1c levels is also an essential tool in diabetes prevention.