The World Health Organization says nearly 450 million people have diabetes, and the number is increasing steadily. Obesity and physical inactivity are two significant reasons for diabetes. People get diabetes when their bodies cannot absorb sugar into their cells and generate energy from it. Diabetes needs to be controlled before it damages organs like the heart, eyes, nerves and kidneys. Checking the blood sugar level is a common way to diagnose diabetes. The hbA1c test or glycated haemoglobin test helps to diagnose and monitor diabetes. It is a simple and inexpensive blood test that helps to determine whether the blood glucose levels are higher than normal. It shows how much sugar is bound to the red blood cells.
What is glycosylated haemoglobin?
Haemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells, carries oxygen. Sugar in the bloodstream combines with the red blood cells to form glycated haemoglobin. Glycosylated haemoglobin is also found in people with normal blood glucose levels. However, it is present in large numbers in people’s blood with consistently high blood glucose levels. The hbA1c level shows the blood glucose levels of the last three months. When glucose attaches to red blood cells, it stays there for the entire life of the red blood cell, which is about three months. High hbA1c indicates that the person has a chance to develop complications like diabetic retinopathy. The hbA1c results detect the pre-diabetes stage and help people prevent stroke and heart disease.
When is the hbA1c level tested?
Doctors prescribe an A1c test when people have symptoms like
Dry, itchy skin
Family history of diabetes
Types of diabetes
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. The immune system will attack the beta cells in the pancreas and destroy them by mistake. Beta cells produce insulin, and destroying them leads to permanent damage.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes begins with insulin resistance, and the body cannot use insulin efficiently. It stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin and continues until the pancreas cannot meet the demands. Decreased insulin production leads to high blood sugar.
Gestational diabetes is caused by insulin-blocking hormones that are produced during pregnancy. This diabetes affects women during their pregnancy period. High blood sugar during pregnancy can harm the mother and child. It increases the risk of miscarriage, high blood pressure, preeclampsia and congenital disabilities.
The normal level for hbA1c is between 4% to 5.6%. If the level is between 5.7% to 6.4%, it indicates pre-diabetes. HbA1c levels of 6.5% or higher mean the person has diabetes. When the hbA1c levels are high, it leads to several complications associated with diabetes.
The hbA1c test price is reasonable, and many labs offer a discount and home collection option. The patients need not do any special preparations before the test. Everyone should check their hbA1c levels at least once a year. People with diabetes should do it once every three to six months. It helps to reduce complications in people with diabetes and pre-diabetes.
People with diabetes must eat a healthy diet containing fruits, vegetables and grains. They should eat only lean meat and limit food that is high in sugar content. Physical activity helps keep diabetes under control, and people must engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day.
People having higher chances of diabetes must take the hbA1c test regularly to avoid health complications. The test results help know whether a person is in pre-diabetes or diabetes stage. With regular tests, the doctors help people manage diabetes and live happy and healthy life.