The HbA1c test, also known as the hemoglobin A1c or the glycosylated hemoglobin test, is a routine dietary screening for people with diabetes. It provides an average blood glucose measurement (the average amount of sugar in your blood) over the past six to 12 weeks and is used with home glucose monitoring to make treatment adjustments.
Diabetes results from a failure to produce enough insulin to process sugar (glucose) in the blood. Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, helps transfer glucose from the blood into the cells. If the body does not produce enough insulin to move the sugar into the cells, the resulting high levels of sugar in the blood and the inadequate amount of sugar in the cells together produce the symptoms and complications of diabetes.
Diabetes damages the small blood vessels, leading to blindness, kidney disease and nerve damage. It also speeds up the hardening and narrowing of large blood vessels (known as atherosclerosis), leading to strokes and coronary heart disease. In general, the higher your HbA1c, the higher the risk that you will develop problems such as eye disease, heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage and stroke.
The normal range for the HbA1c test is between 4 and 6 percent for people who do not have diabetes. The ideal range for people with diabetes is generally less than 7 percent. Two separate A1c tests at 6.5 percent denote a positive diagnosis for diabetes.
People with diabetes who are treated with insulin should have the HbA1c test every three months. The test may be needed more frequently when your diabetes is not well controlled. The test, however, should be performed no more often than every six weeks. Those who are not treated with insulin should have this test every four to six months.
The test can measure the amount of glucose in the blood over the previous 60 to 90 days because some of the glucose binds irreversibly to hemoglobin within red blood cells. Red blood cells live for about 90 days. Thus the amount of glucose that is bound to hemoglobin is directly related to the amount of glucose in the blood in the past 90 days.
The HbA1c test requires no special preparation.
If you have diabetes or are concerned that you might have this disease, you can have an HBA1c test for $30 at the Northern Nevada Medical Center health fair on July 5 from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Visit the first floor of NNMC at 2375 E. Prater Way in Sparks.
Northern Nevada Medical Center holds these health fairs on the first Thursday of every month. You can receive free blood pressure and body fat screenings; a lipid profile including cholesterol, triglycerides and HDL/LDL ratio; PSA prostate cancer testing and other screenings. A physician or a nurse or both will be available to answer your questions.
For more information, visit www.nnmc.com and click on the link for “Community Events.”
John Miceli is the director of ancillary service at Northern Nevada Medical Center. Miceli has extensive experience working in the area of cardiac catheterization and oversees the Accredited Chest Pain Center at NNMC. Miceli holds advanced licensure in cardiovascular technology as well as radiological health.