Diabetics measure their blood sugar levels on a daily basis. They must take these measurements before they eat, after they eat and at bedtime. What they want to learn is how high or low their blood sugar is at each given moment. The ideal measurement is for the glucose level to be between 70 and 120 before they eat and under 140 following a meal.
An Alternative Test of the Blood Sugar
The glucose measurement is a good way for patients and their physicians to monitor blood sugar levels, but they have access to another test that can give them even more information. The blood sugar a1c is not a test that measures the blood glucose level from moment to moment as the glucose test does. The blood sugar a1c measures a patient’s blood sugar over the past two to three months.
How the A1c Test Differs from the Glucose Test
Physicians know that the red blood cells survive within the human body for a period of about three months. They also know that sugar attaches itself to these cells and remains with them throughout their short lives. When physicians test the blood sugar a1c levels, they are testing how much sugar has been attached to the red blood cells for a longer period of time. As a result, they can determine how high the patient’s blood sugar has been for the past three months rather than from meal to meal.
How the Test is Performed
The doctor will remove enough hemoglobin cells to perform the blood sugar a1c test on the patient’s red blood cells. If a significant amount of sugar has attached itself to these cells, they are said to be glycated. If the blood sugar a1c shows that the patient has a large number of glycated cells within the sample, the blood sugar a1c is said to be elevated.
What the Measurements Mean for the A1c Test
To fall within normal limits, the blood sugar a1c must be between four percent and 5.9 percent. The blood sugar a1c is too high for a diabetic if it is eight percent or higher. Diabetics with a blood sugar a1c below seven percent are said to have their diabetes under control.
How Often Must this Test Be Done?
This test is considered to be very important to the American Diabetes Association, but the association also believes that people need to continue monitoring their glucose levels as they have been. They only recommend that the blood sugar a1c be tested twice a year. It will need to be done more often if the patient’s diabetes is not under control.