Diabetes (HbA1c) Test

HbA1c measures blood sugar content to diagnose/manage diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. The hormone insulin moves sugar from the blood into your cells to be stored or used for energy. With diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t effectively use the insulin it does make.

Untreated high blood sugar from diabetes can damage your nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other organs.

There are a few different types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas, where insulin is made. It’s unclear what causes this attack. About 10 percent of people with diabetes have this type.
  • Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body becomes resistant to insulin, and sugar builds up in your blood.
  • Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar is higher than normal, but it’s not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar during pregnancy. Insulin-blocking hormones produced by the placenta cause this type of diabetes.

Each type of diabetes has unique symptoms, causes, and treatments. We will only be looking at Type 2 Diabetes here. 

General diabetes symptoms

Diabetes symptoms are caused by rising blood sugar. The general symptoms of diabetes include:

  • increased hunger
  • increased thirst
  • weight loss
  • frequent urination
  • blurry vision
  • extreme fatigue
  • sores that don’t heal/recurring infections. (This is because elevated glucose levels make it harder for the body to heal.)
  • Additional symptoms in men: decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction (ED), and poor muscle strength
  • Additional symptoms in women: urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and dry, itchy skin

Diabetes symptoms can be so mild that they’re hard to spot at firs which is why testing is important.

What causes Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes stems from a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. Being overweight or obese increases your risk too. Carrying extra weight, especially in your belly, makes your cells more resistant to the effects of insulin on your blood sugar.

This condition runs in families. Family members share genes that make them more likely to get type 2 diabetes and to be overweight.

Your risk for type 2 diabetes increases if you:

  • are overweight
  • are age 45 or older
  • have a parent or sibling with the condition
  • aren’t physically active
  • have had gestational diabetes
  • have prediabetes
  • have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high triglycerides
  • have African American, Hispanic or Latino American, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, American Indian, or Asian American ancestry

Diabetes complications

High blood sugar damages organs and tissues throughout your body. The higher your blood sugar is and the longer you live with it, the greater your risk for complications.

Complications associated with diabetes are extremely serious and include:

  • heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
  • neuropathy (nerve damage, particularly in the hands and feet)
  • nephropathy (progressive kidney disease)
  • retinopathy (damage to the retinas, possibly leading to sight loss
  • hearing loss
  • foot damage such as infections and sores that don’t heal
  • skin conditions such as bacterial and fungal infections
  • depression
  • dementia

What is HbA1c?

Haemoglobin (Hb) is the protein in your blood that carries oxygen around your body. Glucose (sugar) in your blood can stick to the haemoglobin protein. When this happens the haemoglobin is called HbA1c.

The higher the glucose levels are in your blood, the more of it gets stuck to your haemoglobin and the higher your HbA1c is. So, the HbA1c is a blood test that basically checks how much sugar (glucose) has stuck to your blood.

The HbA1c test is used to diagnose diabetes, and to keep an eye on blood glucose levels if you’re at risk of developing diabetes, i.e. you have prediabetes.

What does the HbA1c test measure?

The HbA1c test measures your average blood glucose over 2–3 months and gives an indication of your longer-term blood glucose control.

The longer that you’ve had higher blood sugars for, the higher that your HbA1c will be. (Generally speaking, readings of 50 or over indicate diabetes; 41-49 is moderate and HbA1c levels of 40 or below are normal.)

However, if you already have diabetes, the ideal HbA1c level is 48 and this is a good number to aim for if you are diabetic. But that can be a difficult target to reach for many and so individualized targets are often set for each patient.

Having an HbA1c over 48 does increase risk of developing complications of problems in your eyes, in your kidneys and in your feet. Even if it’s just slightly over it will still increase your risk.

If you do have a high HbA1c level – even if it’s only slightly high – it’s really important to work with your doctor and other healthcare professionals to try to bring your HbA1c to 48 and avoid potentially serious health complications in future such as loss of sight and amputations.

Ways to lower your HbA1c levels

There are several things you can do to lower your HbA1c levels to either avoid diabetes (if you have prediabetes) or to lower your risk of developing diabetes-related complications:

  1. Exercise regularly and move around more. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be a formal exercise routine. It can be doing the housework, walking the dog or cycling to the shops.
  2. Eat a balanced diet with proper portion sizes. Avoid starchy, processed foods and no to sugar, sugary drinks and fruit juices.
  3. Follow the treatment plan your doctor gives you. Your doctor is there to help you but you also need to commit to helping yourself.

If you’re at risk of diabetes, be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly, every 3-6 months – but more often if you have prediabetes or your levels have been changing quickly.

If you get a moderate/high HbA1c reading, speak to your doctor to discuss a potential plan going forward. If necessary, your doctor and health providers will look at your HbA1c reading and decide what is realistic and achievable to start to bring your level closer to 48 over the next 3, 6 and 12 months.

Order a Diabetes (HbA1c) Home Test Kit

Order a Diabetes (HbA1c) Home Test Kit. Get the convenience of home testing with the reassurance of professional clinical analysis. Your results are delivered quickly and securely online.

Our Diabetes home blood test kit checks how well your body has managed blood sugar levels over the last 2 – 3 months by measuring HbA1c, which indicates your risk from diabetes.

Too much sugar in your blood damages blood vessels and can lead to serious problems. The most common cause is Type 2 diabetes, a serious, lifelong condition.

Making positive lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Lowering your HbA1c level is the best gauge of risk reduction.

This Diabetes (HbA1c) Test is advised if you:

  • are aged over 40;
  • are of South Asian, African-Caribbean or Black African descent;
  • are overweight or obese (have a high BMI);
  • have immediate family with history of diabetes;
  • have, or have had, high blood pressure;
  • want the convenience of home testing without waiting for a GP appointment;
  • need a high quality, clinically accredited test done in a professional clinical laboratory.

What’s included in the test kit?

  1. Gentle fingerprick blood testing kit
  2. FREE post & packaging
  3. Results usually within 24 Hours
  4. Accredited laboratory testing by clinical professionals
  5. Personalised report with detailed guidance in your online, secure dashboard
  6. The same accuracy and quality as your GP or hospital

What is tested?

  1. Glycated Haemoglobin (HbA1c) HbA1c is a type of haemoglobin that forms naturally in the body, when sugars bind with haemoglobin in the blood. This process happens slowly so the test indicates your average blood sugar levels over the last 2 to 3 months. This will illustrate if your blood sugar levels are staying within the optimum range and indicate your risk of developing diabetes.

Comments are closed.

SIGNIFICANCE: Used to diagnose diabetes and to monitor blood glucose levels in those at risk

April 14, 2020

diabetes HbA1c test