Article 6 A1C Test, an Effective Tool to Manage Diabetes

The A1C test is also known as a glycated hemoglobin test which determines how well the blood sugar is managed.  The doctor collects blood from a vein which the lab technician measures for the concentration of hemoglobin molecules found in the red blood cells.  Some glucose are attached to these and the test indicates the average blood glucose level over the past two or three months.

What is glycated hemoglobin?  Hemoglobin is the protein found in the red blood cells which links up to the glucose in the blood.  This makes the hemoglobin glycated or sugar coated and the more sugar is there in the blood, the more glycated the hemoglobin becomes.  The glycated hemoglobin remains sugar coated until the red blood cell's life is over which is about 120 days.

The results of the test show what percentage of the hemoglobin is glycated.  Here are the results and what they mean:

People without diabetes have a normal reading of 4-6%.

The target goal for most diabetics is less than 7%.

Result of more than 7% is a concern and may indicate the need to change the treatment plan.

People may need different goals so consult with the doctor to find out what is the best specific goal.  Despite the fact that the target for most is less than 7%, for others it may have to be less than that.  For example, a pregnant woman may need a goal of less than 6% instead of the 7% indicated above.  She will have a stricter goal to reach.

Another point to remember is that the normal range for A1C values may be different from one lab to another so tell the doctor if the test was done somewhere else.  The doctor will then take this fact into consideration in interpreting the test results.

How frequently should the A1C test be done?  The doctor will probably recommend this testing every three months especially if the treatment has changed or if the person is not reaching his blood glucose goal.  If the blood glucose level is under control, then it is recommended that the test be done at least two times a year.

How does the A1C test help?  This test can be helpful in many ways.  When there is a problem about controlling the blood glucose level and the doctor is considering to prescribe medication instead, he may give the lifestyle change a chance to do its magic and wait for the improvement in the diet and exercise plans.

The doctor may recommend to increase the time for exercise and then have one get the A1C test after two or three months.  If there is an improvement in the test results then it goes to show that all that is needed is an increased amount of exercise. 

The A1C test will also give an alert to some problems.  If the reading has been normal for several months and a few years and all of a sudden the test shows abnormal reading, then this is an alert to change the treatment plan.  This test also shows the risk of complications.  The higher the test result is, the greater is the risk.

By Roger Guzman, M.D. and Evelyn Guzman

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