Test Details & Preparation
An A1C test allows doctors to examine glucose levels over a two to three month period and can be a useful tool in judging the effectiveness of a treatment plan. So even if you have a high fasting blood sugar, your overall blood sugars may be normal, or vice versa. A normal fasting blood sugar may not eliminate the possibility of type 2 diabetes. This is why A1C tests are now being used for diagnosis and screening of pre-diabetes. Because they don’t require fasting, the test can be given as part of an overall blood screening.
A1C measures the amount of haemoglobin in the blood that has glucose attached to it. Haemoglobin is a protein found inside red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body. Haemoglobin cells are constantly dying and regenerating, but they have a lifespan of approximately three months. Glucose attaches (glycates) to haemoglobin, so the record of how much glucose is attached to your haemoglobin also lasts for about three months. If there is too much glucose attached to the haemoglobin cells, you will have a high A1C. If the amount of glucose is normal, your A1C will be normal.
Someone who is not diabetic will have about five percent of their haemoglobin glycated. This means that if your A1C is below 5.7, you don’t have to worry. A normal A1C level is below 5.7 percent 6.5 percent or above indicates diabetes 5.7 to 6.4 percent is pre-diabetes. To monitor your overall glucose control, diabetics should have an A1C at least twice a year.
The A1C test result can be up to half a percent higher or lower than the actual percentage. That means if your A1C is 6, it might indicate a range from 5.5 to 6.5. Some people may have a blood glucose test that indicates diabetes, while their A1C is normal, or vice versa. Before making a diagnosis of diabetes, your doctor should repeat the tests.
If you’re in the early stages of the disease, small changes in lifestyle can make a big difference and even reverse diabetic results. Losing a few pounds or starting an exercise program can move you into the non-diabetic camp.
For those who have had pre-diabetes or diabetes for a long time, A1C results that are moving upward is a sign that you need to start on medication or change what you are already taking. You may also need to make other lifestyle changes and monitor your daily blood glucose more closely.