The Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test measures the percentage of A1c hemoglobin proteins that have glucose attached. The higher your blood glucose is on average, the more glucose there is attached to the hemoglobin A1c protein.
Your HbA1c level correlates to and reflects your average blood glucose over the past 3 months. A healthy HbA1c is below 5.7% and above 5.7% indicates chronic elevated glucose and warrants a discussion with a healthcare provider.
The pancreas secretes insulin when you consume carbohydrates and sends excess glucose to the liver as glycogen. The pancreases also produces glucagon, which actually raises blood sugar when necessary. You need both glycogen and glucagon to keep blood sugar levels balanced.
Some signs of high blood sugar include frequent urination, increased hunger and thirst, fatigue, blurred vision, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, and unexplained weight loss.
Some of the signs of low blood sugar are an irregular or fast heartbeat, fatigue, sweating, irritability, and tingling or numbness on the lips, tongue and cheeks. In severe cases, hypoglycemia can also cause confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures and blurred vision.
Why Test Your HbA1c?
Balancing blood sugar levels in the body is a delicate task. Periodically making sure your blood sugar is within normal range can help stave off more serious health issues down the road such as diabetes, heart disease, cognitive issues, and kidney problems. There are many factors that can affect blood glucose levels, primarily diet and lifestyle, but also medical conditions and medications. It is important to be aware if you have certain medical conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid conditions, iron deficiency, chronic liver disease, or sleep disorders that may affect your body’s ability to metabolize glucose.
Further, some medications and supplements may affect glucose levels such as antiretroviral, sulfa antibiotics, high doses of certain vitamins, aspirin, or chronic opioid use. It is important to discuss your medications and medical history along with your test results with a healthcare provider.
Some examples of situations in which these tests are used: