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The hemoglobin A1C laboratory test is an essential lab value for tracking blood sugar control. Typically, primary care providers like to monitor this test every three months.
- It is a test that is often used for patients with diabetes to determine if their treatment plan is working effectively
- It is a good screening tool to evaluate if someone is developing diabetes
How Is a Hemoglobin A1c Performed?
A hemoglobin A1C test is performed by drawing blood. It can be taken with a non-fasting blood draw, which means that if you eat immediately before the test, it will not change the value.
The hemoglobin A1C test reveals the average blood sugar over the course of the last three months. This test is also called a glycated hemoglobin because it looks at red blood cells. As red blood cells circulate through the blood stream, they become coated with excess sugar, or glucose, that is also floating around in the blood. When a blood sample is taken, a test can be run to determine how much sugar has attached to the red blood cells during circulation. Increased amounts of glucose in the blood will result in a higher hemoglobin A1C value. Red blood cells live an average of three months, so they can show the average of the last three months of an individual’s blood sugars.
Understanding Hemoglobin A1C Results
The normal range for a hemoglobin A1c is less than 5.7 percent. This indicates that the average blood sugar levels were within an acceptable range and do not suggest that a person has diabetes.
Hemoglobin A1C values of 5.7 to 6.4 percent are considered to be pre-diabetic values. This means that the patient has had higher than normal blood sugar levels over the previous three months and could be developing diabetes. Many health care providers recommend dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of developing diabetes if the test results fall into this range.
A hemoglobin A1C of 6.5 percent or greater is diagnosed as diabetes. Diabetes mellitus is a challenging medical condition that can have far-reaching consequences. When a patient is diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to reduce blood sugar levels and attempt to get them to a healthy range. The hemoglobin A1C goal for many diabetics is less than 7.0 percent, which significantly reduces the risk of complications from diabetes.
Ways to Reduce an Elevated Hemoglobin A1C
There are several ways that a patient can reduce his or her hemoglobin A1C levels to an acceptable range. First, it is always important to adhere to the treatment plan that the health care provider has developed. This includes checking your blood sugar as directed by your provider. Eating a balanced diet of appropriate portion sizes and getting frequent exercise has also been shown to be effective for lowering hemoglobin A1C levels. Finally, maintaining a schedule to eat at regular intervals can help to even out blood sugar levels.
The hemoglobin A1C lab test is a powerful tool to detect and monitor diabetes. It can easily be performed, and it gives patients and providers valuable knowledge of blood sugar levels over a three-month span.