What is Hemoglobin A1c?
Hemoglobin is the predominant protein in red blood cells. It is also the oxygen-carrying pigment that gives blood its red color. About 90% of hemoglobin is hemoglobin A (the A stands for adult). The remaining 10% is made up of components that have slightly different chemical characteristics. These small components are hemoglobin A1b, A1a1, A1a2 and A1c. Hemoglobin A1c is the component of hemoglobin to which glucose is bound. This component of hemoglobin is invaluable for measuring the blood sugar level of a potential diabetes sufferer and monitoring a reaction to drug therapy, exercise and change in diet for a person who has already been diagnosed with diabetes.
The reason the analysis of hemoglobin A1c is so useful for diabetes evaluation is because the results reflect the average glucose levels in the blood over the prior three months before examination. Every person with diabetes should take a hemoglobin A1c test at least twice a year. The frequency of the test should increase if a change has been made to a treatment plan, for example if the amount of insulin has been increased or decreased or there has been a significant change in diet or exercise routine. The test is simple and usually performed at your health care providers office. A small sample of blood is taken and sent to a laboratory for examination. The results of the test are very important, because lowering the A1c number can prevent the development of diseases in the kidneys, eyes and nerves. It is not just people suffering from diabetes who will benefit from lowering their hemoglobin A1c number; a lower number improves everyone’s chances of staying healthy. So what A1c number is a good number? The goal for people with diabetes is a number less than 7 percent. Tests show that people with an A1c number close to 7 percent have a much higher chance of preventing or delaying serious diabetic problems than people with hemoglobin A1c levels of 8 percent and higher. In healthy, non-diabetic people the A1c level is less than 7 percent. Now we know the goal, it is time to find a way to get there.
Staying in control of diabetes and trying to lower your A1c levels requires sticking to a healthy meal plan, a regular exercise routine, taking the prescribed medicines and self-monitoring of your blood sugar levels. Make sure you chart your progress, writing down goals and ticking them off as they are accomplished is a very satisfying way to physically see your progress. If your hemoglobin A1c levels were to rise, because you had been monitoring your meals, exercise routines and blood sugar levels, you can work with your health care provider to examine your records and identify the cause for the rise in percentage. Common causes of a rise in hemoglobin A1c levels include stress, a lack or exercise, a need to change medicines and illness or infection. Having the results of a hemoglobin A1c test, really gives a person the ability to have an active role in their diabetes management. When the results are high, you know something in your routine needs to change and it is a real motivator to make that change, to get the percentage down and lead a happier, healthier life.