Thursday, September 15, 2011

HbA1C Blood Test For Diabetics: What and Why?

Educate yourself and outsmart diabetes! Learn to interpret results of your tests. Have your own test chart, plot the results, compare with your previous test. I always look forward to those days when my doctor tells me to have my laboratory tests for Hematology, Urinalysis, Clinical Chemistry, HbA1C, and ECG. My recent annual complete test results this July revealed much improvement- no trace of sugar in my urine, total cholesterol- normal high(hehe!), hematology- all normal, blood pressure- normal,  ECG- normal, HbA1C- down to 6.8%. Yes, it  went down for the first time in about 2 years under my new doctor. When I transferred into his care, I had 11% that eventually slowly gained decreases. I'm bound to have my next result down to 6.5%! I'm diabetic, so, for now, that's my target!

My record-breaking HbA1C means that my control with  my diabetes is improving. On the same day, though, I was tested with 8.94mmol/L blood sugar. That was expected because I just celebrated my birthday partying with family and friends. My good doctor explained to me that it was a "temporary occurrence" and that he wasn't bothered by it. The  result of the HbA1C  proves that I was in control. I  was  happy and vowed to continue to make some  needed adjustments  in my  regular and strict patterns of control with dieting, exercising, and drug treatments with no threat of eating binge.  Meanwhile, I have to live with  my peripheral neuropathy, a complication that resulted from my ignorance of my condition then.

Ask a person diagnosed with diabetes for quite sometime now if he had undergone HbA1C test, almost always, the answer is "no". I know, because most of my close friends with this condition are stranger to this test. Ask him further if he can tell you exactly when his diabetes began. Don't be surprised if he tells you he can't. There are usually no symptoms of diabetes on its onset. So why must one consult a doctor when he doesn't experience any of the chronic symptoms?

A person may have 160 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) sugar level and below, but this is not enough to classify him as diabetic. However, he is at risk of developing diabetes. Because he is unaware  0f his body condition, he doesn't apply control nor treatment. If this heightened blood glucose isn't properly addressed to, his progression to diabetes for the next 5 to 10 years, is inevitable. A number of people today are diabetic who were diagnosed only several years after its onset, when the classic symptoms start to appear. Worse is, by this time, complications are already present.

That's what exactly happened to me! I was diagnosed with positive 4 sugar in my urine in one of those annual check up that we, government employees, had to undergo. It went on for years but I brushed it off. I didn't know that I was already on the threshold- pre-diabetes. I wasn't bothered by any of those symptoms like frequent urination, blurring of vision, extreme thirst, etc. My peripheral neuropathy didn't happen overnight. It was the result of my unattended pre-diabetes condition over the years. If I was as informed about diabetes then as I am now, I would have been able to reverse it and return my  BG level to normal. Meanwhile, I have to keep my debilitating nerves rehabilitated through proper exercise, good diet plan, and drug therapy.

My heart speaks the truth. I want to help others. Forewarned is forearmed! If you want to know whether you have pre-diabetes (for people at risk of developing diabetes), or if you want to find out if your diabetes is under control (for diabetics), ask your doctor about HbA1C blood test.

What Is HbA1C Test?
(Sources: Google, Medline Plus, Medical Encyclopedia)

Our red blood cells are made of molecules called hemoglobin. It is the oxygen-carrying pigment that gives red color to the blood. Glucose sticks to the hemoglobin that could result to glycosylated hemoglobin called A1C or HbA1C. The more blood glucose, the more percentage of HbA1C in the blood. Other alternative terms for HbA1C are: glycated hemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin, hemoglobin- glycosylated, A1C, GHb, glycohemoglobin, diabetic control index.

Our red blood cells live from 8 - 12 weeks before they are replaced. This test is a finger stick blood test to check if diabetes is under control. It tells you how high your sugar level is over the past 3 months or 8-12 weeks. It's not influenced by food one had recently eaten or events of the day when blood was drawn out for testing. The normal count for non-diabetics is from 3.5% - 5.5%. For diabetics, 6.5% is good enough. So, you now understand why I'm happy with my 6.8% latest result.

According to my sources, the ideal targets for HbA1C are:

1. HbA1C less than 6.5%  if the person sounds well with controlled diet and medication
2. HbA1C of from 6.5% - 7.5% if person had never experienced incidence of hyperglycemia
3. HbA1C of from 7.0% - 7.5% if the person is insulin-dependent, trying to control diabetes as low as possible without incidence of hyperglycemia and is able to test glucose 4x a day

Why Measure HbA1C ?

Complications of diabetes can be delayed or even be prevented if the person's HbA1C level is kept to less than 7%. This test is used to monitor the effects of diet, exercise, and drug treatment applied by the diabetic for the last 3 months. It tells you if your attempt to control diabetes under these factors is really working.

When Do We Measure  Our HbA1C ?

Again, your doctor knows best. It's good to have a  doctor to check you up regularly. If your diabetes is controlled as shown in your check ups, or  your high sugar level is very stable, with HbA1C lower than 7%, your doctor may suggest a laboratory test of your blood glucose every 3 months. If your HbA1C reading is above 7 %, but you are reasonably healthy, the next reading should be sooner to achieve a lower level the soonest. Which means further that you must make changes in your patterns of dieting, exercising, medication,  to improve your control.

Your HbA1C drops, once your blood glucose control improves. With less than 7% HbA1C, you may never develop retinopathy. With 7%, retinopathy may develop but much slower than when you have 9%. 

It may interest you to have a cursory look at  this table for further study:

HbA1C  versus Average Blood Glucose-mmol/L

13 %     -     18
12%      -     17

11%      -     15

10%      -     13

9%        -     12

8%        -     10

7%        -      8

6%        -      7

5%        -      5

More than 6.5%  - diabetic
Less than 6%  - not diabetic
In between 6% - 6.5% - pre-diabetes or at risk diabetes

You can always re-check these figures for  affirmation. Meanwhile, I hope that  a sound awareness about this seemingly tricky condition- diabetes- can help save lives.Why don't you start today? Come on, have your HbA1C checked and save one life. It can be your own life!  Who knows?


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