During November, National Diabetes Month is a time to raise awareness of the health problems related to diabetes, which can develop over time without any symptoms.
It’s critical to stay on top of daily diabetes care if you’ve already been diagnosed. That includes adhering to a healthy eating plan that includes more fruits and vegetables and decreased sugar and salt. It’s also important to be physically active 10 to 20 minutes a day and to take your diabetes medication if you’ve been prescribed any by your physician. And, if you are already diagnosed, check your blood sugar regularly so you can understand the effects of food, medicine and activity on your body.
If you have not yet been diagnosed, your physician may suggest an A1C blood test. Testing a person’s level of blood glucose during the previous three months can help your provider determine if you have prediabetes and need to change your lifestyle habits to prevent type 2 diabetes. It can also determine if you already have type 2 diabetes and enable your health care professional to monitor the disease and help you make treatment decisions.
You may also hear an A1C test called the hemoglobin A1C, HbA1c, glycated hemoglobin, or glycohemoglobin test. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hemoglobin is the part of a red blood cell that carries oxygen to the cells. Glucose attaches to or binds with hemoglobin in your blood cells, and the A1C test is based on this attachment of glucose to hemoglobin.
The higher the glucose level in your bloodstream, the more glucose will attach to the hemoglobin, notes the CDC. The A1C test measures the amount of hemoglobin with attached glucose and reflects your average blood glucose levels over the past 3 months.
When the results are revealed, the higher the percentage means the higher your blood glucose levels have been in this time frame. A standard, or “normal” A1C level is below 5.7 percent. Prediabetes is typically between 5.7 to 6.4 percent, while diabetes is diagnosed when blood glucose levels are 6.5 percent or higher.
Your physician may use the A1C test along with other diabetes tests to consider whether you have type 2 or prediabetes.
The A1C test is not used, however, to diagnose type 1 diabetes or gestational diabetes.
According to the CDC, having prediabetes is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Within the prediabetes A1C range of 5.7 to 6.4 percent, the higher the A1C, the greater the risk of diabetes.
Lab results can vary from test-to-test, depending on the movement of your blood glucose levels. Blood glucose levels increase and decrease when a person eats or exercises, and sickness or stress can also affect the results.
Your physician will use the A1C test to help you with treatment options and to monitor your diabetes or prediabetes.
Lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and physical activity may help you prevent or delay a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.