Hemoglobin A1c Testing in Phoenix, AZ
The Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) – or more commonly called the A1c – is a blood test that measures glycated hemoglobin levels in the blood to determine average plasma glucose concentrations; in other words, it tests average blood sugar levels over time. The HbA1c is a useful tool to:
- Diagnose diabetes
- Identify patients at increased risk for diabetes
- Evaluate long-term control of blood sugar levels in diabetic patients
The most commonly known diabetic blood test is the finger-prick test, which measures blood glucose readings on a small portable monitor. This test is taken repeatedly throughout the day and registers the ups and downs of blood glucose levels as impacted by diet, exercise and stress levels.
The fasting blood glucose level test likewise measures blood glucose or blood sugar levels at a specific point in time, but the fasting aspect of the test takes the glucose from ingested foods and liquids out of the equation and provides a more accurate measure of the body’s baseline blood glucose level.
The HbA1c, however, can determine average blood glucose levels over time. This is important because consistently high blood glucose levels present a greater risk of diabetes-related complications than occasionally high readings. Long-term treatment of the disease defines success as control of blood glucose levels to minimize long-term complications such as cardiovascular disease and neuropathy.
How the Hemoglobin A1c Works
When your body processes simple sugars or sugar from more complex carbohydrates, glucose in the bloodstream naturally attaches or binds to hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body and transports carbon dioxide waste back to your lungs to be expelled. The amount of glucose that binds to hemoglobin – creating glycated hemoglobin – is directly proportional to the amount of sugar in your system at any given time. Because red blood cells – and the glycated hemoglobin within them – survive for 8-12 weeks before being renewed by the body, the glycated hemoglobin (or HbA1c) can be measured. That measurement, which goes back two to three months, reflects average blood glucose levels over that period of time. If your blood sugar levels were high in the months before testing, your HbA1c measurement will also be higher.
What to Expect from Your Hemoglobin A1c
There is no need to fast before your HbA1c test and no special dietary restrictions before or after the test. Blood will be taken from your arm, not a finger-prick.
The HbA1c should be taken 3-4 times a year in people with Type 1 diabetes or who have poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes. It can be taken more often when changing medications to monitor changes in blood glucose levels over time.
The HbA1c target for people with diabetes to aim for is below 48 mmol/mol or below 6.5%. That is the diabetic threshold. Readings of 6.5% and above indicate diabetes, prediabetic is 6.0-6.4%, and below 6.0% is normal.
By following a diabetic management plan prescribed by your physician and making necessary lifestyle changes, lowering your HbA1c reading is possible. Lower readings have been linked with dramatically reduced risks of diabetic complications. For example, a 1% reduction means you are 19% less likely to develop cataracts, 16% less likely to experience heart failure, and 43% less likely to suffer amputation or death from peripheral vascular disease.
If you've been suffering from symptoms of diabetes, an HbA1c test can be an accurate and informative alternative to traditional diabetes testing that does not require overnight fasting. Request more information about an HbA1c today.
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