All you need to know about HbA1c test

As a diabetic, have you heard of an investigation called HbA1c test? Also, do you know what is your reading and what does it mean?

Generally, diabetics track their blood sugar levels through tests like fasting plasma glucose test, oral glucose tolerance test and random plasma glucose test before or after meals to check their blood sugar levels at that point of time. But, the importance of tracking blood sugars through HbA1c is surely distinctive. This test may be advised by your physician once in 3 to 6 months to assess if the blood glucose is being maintained well and kept in good control.

HbA1c serves as a multipurpose test for screening, diagnosis and management of diabetes. Let?s understand more?

HbA1c and its importance!

HbA1c is a form of hemoglobin (pigment that carries oxygen) in red blood cells that bind with glucose (sugar) in the blood to form a coat. This coat gets thicker when there’s more sugar in the blood. HbA1c test measures how thick that coat has been over the past 3 months. Instead of current levels of blood sugar, HbA1c gives a picture of blood glucose control over a long period of time. Hence, higher a person?s blood glucose level during that period, higher would be the value of HbA1c.

Primarily, HbA1c helps in

  • Diagnosing prediabetes and diabetes.
  • Checking your treatment for diabetes.

The importance of HbA1c can also be understood well from the fact that diabetes can lead to many complications, affecting the entire body. Constant monitoring of HbA1c helps in reducing the complications caused by prolonged elevated blood sugar levels through early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. You can save yourself from the risk of developing kidney failure, vision problems and leg or foot numbness arising due to diabetes by keeping HbA1c level in the target range.

Moreover, this test helps the diabetics to know if the medications, dietary restrictions and lifestyle modifications made by them to control diabetes are effective or not. It can be used as an indicator to make adjustments if, blood sugar levels are not controlled.

Limitations of?HbA1c

HbA1c is usually a reliable indicator for diabetic control but it may not be an appropriate test in diagnosis of diabetes in:

  • Children & young people.
  • Pregnant woman
  • Patients with diabetes for less than two month duration.
  • Suspected type 1 diabetes patients.
  • Patients on medications causing rapid glucose rise.
  • In acute pancreatic damage patients.
  • Anemia
  • If the average RBC lifespan is significantly less than 120 days.
Know your readings
  • HbA1c level less than 5.7% indicates a healthy level.
  • Level of 5.7% to 6.4% indicates increased risk of diabetes or prediabetes
  • Level of 6.5% or higher signals the presence of diabetes.
  • Levels above 7% indicate that the blood sugar is not well controlled.

The normal values listed above are just a guide. These readings may vary from lab to lab. Also, your doctor may evaluate your results based on your health and other factors.

How is HbA1c test different from a blood glucose test??

HbA1c and blood glucose test give us two different sets of information. No doubt, both being useful for us.

  • ?HbA1c is not influenced by daily fluctuations. The levels tell us about long-term glucose control that helps with overall diabetes management. Whereas, blood glucose test gives us a ?real-time? (that very minute) feedback that helps in detecting hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia. This allows appropriate changes to treatment e.g. insulin dosage, food intake and regulating activity levels.
  • HbA1c test does not require fasting whereas, blood glucose test requires 10-12 hours of fasting.
  • The HbA1c counts the number of glycosylated (attached to sugar) red blood cells. One the other hand, the blood glucose test measures the amount of sugar that is freely circulating in the blood.

As a diabetic, your ultimate aim should be to lower your HbA1c levels. Follow your dietary modifications, physical activity and medications recommended for diabetics. If still your levels of HbA1c remains high, consult your diabetic care team/physician for changes in your treatment plan.

Kawaljit Kaur

Kawaljit is a healthcare professional with an experience of over 15 years in healthcare operations. Her last corporate position was Vice President-Operations at Centre for Sight. As a writer, she has an expertise in writing medical contents and those related to present healthcare scenarios for various platforms that include medical professionals, healthcare companies, web health portals, hospitals and at present also heading the editorial team of a healthcare magazine.