Why Do I Need to Know What My Hemoglobin A1C Is?

Roughly one in every three Americans has prediabetes, a condition that dramatically increases their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes typically causes few or no symptoms, and that can make it difficult to diagnose — unless you have regular blood tests to measure your hemoglobin A1C.

At Affordable & Restorative Health, Winston Griner, MD, uses hemoglobin A1C lab tests to help patients diagnose the very early warning signs of prediabetes and to help diabetic patients control their blood sugar and manage their diabetes more effectively.

Here’s why you should keep track of your hemoglobin A1C.

Hemoglobin A1C: The basics

Hemoglobin is a protein found in your red blood cells. Its primary function is to carry oxygen to all the organs and tissues in your body. Hemoglobin A1C is a type of hemoglobin that’s chemically linked to a sugar.

Unlike glucose tests that give a “snapshot” of the current level of sugars in your blood, the hemoglobin A1C test is a measurement of your blood sugar levels over the previous three months. That means it’s especially helpful for identifying higher blood sugar levels that could be associated with prediabetes and diabetes.

The short-term nature of glucose testing also means those tests are influenced by the foods you’ve eaten that day, while the hemoglobin A1C test gives a better idea of blood sugar trends over a period of weeks.

Hemoglobin A1C testing: What to expect

Also called glycated hemoglobin testing or glycosylated hemoglobin testing, the hemoglobin A1C test is a simple blood test that we can draw right here in our office. During the test, we use a needle to extract a small sample of your blood.

The sample is carefully evaluated to provide an accurate assessment of blood sugar over a longer period of time. At the end of the testing, your result is given as a number that reflects the hemoglobin A1C level in your blood.

The hemoglobin A1C test can be performed on its own, or we may use the blood sample for other measurements, too, especially if the testing is conducted as part of your annual physical exam. Fasting is not required for the hemoglobin A1C test.

Knowing your number is important

Many of us have lab tests without really paying any attention to the final results. We leave those up to the doctor to interpret. If that sounds like you, then you’re missing out on an important opportunity to manage your health proactively in partnership with your health care team.

If you have diabetes, your hemoglobin A1C is a reflection of how well you’re managing your glucose levels over time. If you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes, the results can help determine your risk of developing the disease in the future.

According to the CDC:

  • A hemoglobin A1C result of less than 5.7% is normal
  • A result between 5.7-6.4% indicates prediabetes
  • A result of 6.5% and above indicates diabetes

For non-diabetics, the CDC says everyone aged 45 and older should have a hemoglobin A1C test to give a baseline measurement of their sugar levels, then once every 1-3 years, depending on your results and risk factors. If your results indicate prediabetes, Dr. Griner will likely perform another test on a different day to confirm the result.

The dangers of diabetes

Diabetes increases your risks of serious medical problems, like:

  • Heat disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease and kidney failure
  • Blindness
  • Painful nerve damage
  • Deafness
  • Skin infections
  • Lower limb amputations

Having regular hemoglobin A1C tests is one of the smartest things you can do to decrease those risks and improve your health.

To schedule your test or to find out about diabetes management programs at our practice in Nashville, Tennessee, call Affordable & Restorative Health at 615-903-2401 or request an appointment online today.

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