The A1c test, also known as Hemoglobin A1c, gives you a value of your glucose level over the period of about three months. This helps your doctor determine how well your diabetes is being controlled. This value can also alert your doctor to your immediate risk of diabetes related complications.
How the A1C Test Works
Glucose is essentially fuel for the body. Glucose is vital for the normal growth, development, and maintenance of cells, the fundamental building blocks of the body. After the digestion of a meal occurs, glucose travels through your bloodstream waiting for the presence of insulin to help the glucose enter your body’s cells.
In patients with a diabetes diagnosis, glucose builds up in the bloodstream because insulin is not present or isn’t functioning properly to allow the glucose to enter cells. A blood test, carried out at a lab or by a home-use A1C glucose test, tests for the presence of glucose, or sugar, in your blood over a period of time. It tests this by measuring the amount of hemoglobin A1C in your blood. Please note that the A1C home test kit is different than your standard home-use blood glucose meter. Right now there is one home kit on the market called the Bayer A1C Now At Home kit.
Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from lungs through your blood to your body’s tissues and organs. Hemoglobin can do this because it is made up 4 protein chains that each can bind, or stick, to other molecules in the blood, transporting them through the body. Just like sticky sugar, glucose molecules stick to one of hemoglobin’s protein chains and these glucose molecules stay stuck for the lifespan of the red blood cell, about 90-120 days. For this reason, A1C test results provide the glucose average for the last 120 days.
But you don’t need to wait 120 days to detect a change in A1C levels because glucose changes from the past 30 days are easier to detect on the hemoglobin molecule than the older – 90-120 day old- glucose molecules. So if there has been a significant change in your average blood sugar levels, this can be detected within 1 month.
The A1C test is important because if gives doctors an idea of a diabetic patient’s progress over an extended time period, giving them information on how well controlled their diabetes is.
What is a Normal A1C Level?
|A1c(%)||Mean blood sugar (mg/dl)|
A1C is measured in percentage points and the average level in those without a diabetes diagnosis is between 4% and 6%.
In 1993 the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial was completed and demonstrated that tracking A1C levels could help identify those patient’s who’s risk for serious complications such as kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage, was highest.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that patients with a diabetes diagnosis keep their A1C level under 7% per cent. Every percentage point of A1C is equal to roughly 35mg/dl of average blood glucose, a significant amount. For every percentage point down, there is a 10% decrease in risk for serious diabetes-related microvascular complication.