Hemoglobin A1C Test: What it Means to You

Many diabetics, pre-diabetic, and individuals concerned about their health are confused by the hemoglobin A1C test for diabetes. They want to know what exactly the test measures, how to interpret the results, and what it means for their current condition. Does it affect their prognosis or treatment options? Does it mean that they will have to begin taking insulin?
Here are some alarming statistics regarding the prevalence and impact of diabetes on American citizens and our national economy. Approximately 25 million Americans suffer from diabetes, 7 million of which are undiagnosed. More than one in four individuals over the age of 65 has diabetes. Around half of all American adults are considered to be pre-diabetic. Diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputations not attributed to trauma, and blindness cases among adults in the United States. It is also a major cause of heart disease and strokes and is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that diabetes costs the U.S. economy directly and indirectly to the tune of 174 billion dollar annually. Sadly, the majority of diabetes cases are preventable, and a very high percentage of complications are avoidable through appropriate lifestyle changes and disease management.

Hemoglobin A1C Test Preferred Method of Testing For Diabetes

One of the preferred methods of testing for diabetes and assessing disease management is the A1C test. The test is a common blood test to estimate the level sugar levels in the blood and to see how well a person is managing their disease. Other names for the test include glycated hemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin, and HbA1c. To be more specific, the test measures the exact percentage of hemoglobin, the protein carrier of oxygen in the blood that carries sugar on it. The higher the number, the worse the condition is. People with higher levels, especially those who already have diabetes, tend to suffer from increased rates of complications.

Most diabetics regularly monitor their status using a routine test that measures the amount of glucose in the blood. Routine blood glucose tests are terrific indicators of glucose levels over the short term, but are limited in that they monitor blood sugar only in the now. They do not indicate long term disease management status. The advantage of the A1C test is that it gives an accurate indication of diabetes management over a period of two to three months.

Many diabetics understand their blood sugar status in terms of blood glucose level. Glucose is typically measured in mg / dl. Normal levels range between about 80 and 110. So, when people suddenly see a percentage instead of a number and a low number at that, they do not know how to interpret it. So, how should one interpret the results of the test?

Hemoglobin A1C Test Results to Blood Glucose Level

The formula to make the conversion from the glycated hemoglobin level to the blood glucose level is 28.7 X A1C – 46.7 = eAG. Here is an example using a 7% level as an example. So, 28.7 multiplied by 7 equals 200.09. Then, 200.09 minus 46.7 equals 154.2. Therefore, a 7% level of the long term test has the same value as a 154.2 blood glucose test. If individuals have troubling making this calculation on their own, they can always use an online calculator to do it for them. They are widely available. An individual just has to perform an internet search and a conversion tool should easily come up. The person then enters one number and quickly receives the result.

When a person is first diagnosed with diabetes, a doctor typically performs baseline tests with which to compare future results. The aim is to assess the long term trends of blood sugar levels to make the necessary medication and / or regime changes. Upturns that occur over time typically indicate an increased risk of complications like circulation problems, kidney disease, amplified threat of blindness, and danger of heart disease and stroke. Levels are used to guide care and have been shown, through numerous research findings, to improve the health outcomes of diabetics.

Hemoglobin A1C Test Frequency

The frequency with which A1C levels are measured depends on the type and severity of diabetes. For example, type 2 diabetics who do not take insulin receive the test twice a year. Those with type 1 or have type 2 and take insulin are tested four times a year. Anytime a person struggles to keep their glucose levels within the recommended range, the test can be repeated.

The glycated hemoglobin test is performed like any other standard blood test. A needle is inserted

into a vein with the arm, and taken to the lab for testing. Results have been shown to be very accurate. One advantage of the test is that a person can eat and drink normally beforehand and does not have to be fasting.

All individuals with diabetes should have routine testing done. Such testing not only assesses the short term management of the condition, but also the long term. Doctors and individuals can guide care based on the A1C levels that are regularly measured, and understand and look out for complications like kidney disease, blindness, and heart disease and stroke.

Hemoglobin A1C Test: What it Means to You