In the past, if you had diabetes, you had to rely on finger sticks and urine tests as a way of measuring your regular blood sugar levels. Now, all that has changed thanks to the availability of tests for A1C blood sugar levels. These tests arrived into the mainstream health sector in the 1980s, and they quickly emerged as an important tool for controlling blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
A1C tests are designed to measure the average blood glucose level that your body has experienced over the past few months. This means that even if you end up having higher than usual fasting blood glucose levels, you could find that your overall levels are still normal, and vice versa.
Importantly, just because you seem to have a normal fasting blood sugar level, that doesn’t necessarily eliminate the risk of having type 2 diabetes. This is one of the reasons why A1C tests have emerged as a solution for screening and diagnosing pre-diabetes. Because it doesn’t require any special circumstances or fasting, the test can be given as part of a full blood screening.
Otherwise known as the HbA1C test, or the hemoglobin A1C test, this unique procedure could be the ideal way for people with diabetes to start regaining control over their blood sugar levels after a diagnosis. Chances are that you could end up with a more accurate reading of your blood sugar level with A1C, meaning that you’re less likely to deal with the worrying repercussions of detrimental glucose levels.
What Does A1C Measure Anyway?
If you’ve been wondering about your A1C blood sugar levels recently, then it’s probably a good idea to make sure that you know what these tests actually measure. A1C is the test used to measure the level of hemoglobin in your blood that comes with glucose attached to the cell. Hemoglobin is one of the proteins found in your body’s red blood cells, and it’s responsible for carrying oxygen around the body.
Hemoglobin cells frequently die and have a lifespan of about three months.
Because glucose attaches to hemoglobin in red blood cells, it’s easy to get a record of how much glucose you’ve consumed and managed over the last three months by evaluating your hemoglobin. Ideally, your doctors will be checking that your hemoglobin glucose levels meet with a general standard for what is deemed to be “normal” in a diabetic patient.
A1C blood sugar levels are a good way to measure the ups and downs of diabetes, because the average lifespan of a hemoglobin cell makes it easier to get a reading over an expanded period of time, instead of focusing specifically in one area at one precise moment. For instance, if you had a high blood glucose level during the last week of the month, but it was normal for the remainder of the month, then your cells will carry a record for the last week’s blood sugar in your blood. The glucose that was attached to all of your hemoglobin over the previous three months will be recorded by the test too, giving you a full insight into your history.
Ultimately, the A1C test is designed to give doctors an average reading of your blood sugar levels for an extended period of time. While it might not give you an accurate insight into any particular day, it will give your care provider an idea of how well you’ve managed your blood sugar level recently.
What Do Normal A1C Blood Sugar Levels Look Like?
Those who don’t have diabetes will typically have about 5% glucose in their hemoglobin, while a normal A1C level is generally 5.6 percent or less, according to experts. On the other hand, a person with pre-diabetes is more likely to have a level somewhere between 5.7 and 6.4 percent. If you have diabetes, then your A1C level will probably be around 6.5 percent or above.
You’ll need to have an A1C test at least twice a year to keep track of your blood glucose levels. However, it’s important to remember that these tests aren’t always 100% accurate. Anyone who has had diabetes for an extended period of time will know that A1C tests haven’t been totally reliable until the last few years. Experiments have been conducted on many types of A1C tests in an attempt to find the best level of accuracy.
The standardization program in the world of glycohemoglobin research has made it easier for experts to ensure that A1C tests are as accurate as possible. People who manufacture these tests will need to prove that the tests they produce are consistent with the ones that are used in one major diabetes study.
Of course, the accuracy of the tests is still somewhat questionable, as it is with any blood glucose test, as your result can be up to half a percent lower or higher than your actual percentage. This means that you might have a blood glucose test that tells you have diabetes, when the truth is that you only have prediabetes, or that your blood sugar level is completely normal. Before you make your own diagnosis of diabetes, you should contact your doctor for a secondary test.
Additionally, some people will get false results if they suffer from kidney failure, are severely anemic, or have liver disease. People from specific ethnicities can encounter issues with A1C, as this is another factor that can influence the outcome of the test. People of Asian, African, or Mediterranean decent have also been found to have a less common form of hemoglobin that can sometimes interfere with the tests.
What If Your A1C Blood Sugar Levels Are Too High?
High levels in your A1C tests could mean that you’re more likely to suffer from nerve damage, kidney damage, cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes, foot problems, and even slower wound healing. If you’re in the very early stages of diabetes then there’s a good chance that making small changes to your lifestyle could be enough to put your condition into remission.
Losing a few extra pounds and changing your diet can be a great way to start when it comes to treating diabetes. Additionally, if you’ve had diabetes for a long time, higher A1C results could be a sign that you need to change your medication.