The A1C Test for Diabetes
Today, it is estimated that about 3.8 million people in the UK aged over 16 have diabetes, which is about 9 percent of the population.
Because of the prevalence of diabetes, and because the health consequences of uncontrolled diabetes can be so devastating, you have probably heard of the A1C test. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you may have periodic A1C tests. But what exactly is the A1C test, and what do the results mean?
What Is the A1C Test?
The A1C test is a simple blood test that is used to diagnose diabetes and to see how well diabetes is being controlled after it has been diagnosed. The test provides your average level of blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) over the past 3 months. The A1C test also goes by other names, including the haemoglobin A1C, glycohaemoglobin, HbA1C, glycated haemoglobin, and glycosylated haemoglobin test.
Haemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to every part of the body. As glucose builds up in the blood, it attaches to haemoglobin. The A1C test measures how much glucose is attached to the haemoglobin in your red blood cells. Because red blood cells have a lifespan of about 3 months, your A1C level indicates your average blood glucose level over the past 3 months.
is perfect to explain the A1C test to patients and students.
What Do My A1C Results Mean?
A1C test results are given as millimoles per mole (mmol/mol). Measurements are also often given as a percentage. Higher numbers indicate a higher blood glucose level. General diagnostic guidelines are:
- Normal A1C Level: below 42 mmol/mol (6.0 percent)
- Prediabetes: 42–47 mmol/mol (6.0 to 6.4 percent)
- Diabetes: 48 mmol/mol (6.5 percent or higher)
For a diagnosis of diabetes, a person must have an A1C level of 48 mmol/mol (6.5 percent or higher) on two separate occasions. In certain situations, such as with people with anaemia or with individuals of African, Mediterranean, or Southeast Asian descent, a standard A1C test may not be accurate.
explains the role of the A1C test in diabetes management.
For patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes, a common treatment target is an A1C level of 48 mmol/mol (6.5 percent), although a higher level may be appropriate in certain situations. Keep in mind: A higher A1C level increases your risk of serious diabetes complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.
to reveal the importance of diabetes management.
What if I Am Diagnosed with Prediabetes or Diabetes?
If you have prediabetes, you can work with your GP or diabetes specialist to make lifestyle changes—such as being more physically active, eating a healthy diet, and losing extra weight—that can help prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes, your healthcare team will work with you to manage your diabetes so that you can avoid diabetic complications.
Remember: There is no substitute for advice from your GP or diabetes specialist. If you have any questions about your A1C test or results, talk to your healthcare professional team.
To learn more about our engaging diabetes education materials and models, please visit our Diabetes Section.
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