Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), also known as glycated haemoglobin, is a longer term measure of glucose levels in your blood than a simple blood glucose test. Glucose attaches itself to the haemoglobin in your red blood cells, and as your cells live for around 12-16 weeks, it gives us a good indication of the average level of sugar in your blood over a 3 month period.
What might a low result mean?
A low HbA1c shows that you are currently not at risk of diabetes. However, it is important to monitor your HbA1c levels regularly so that you keep your blood sugar in the healthy range.
If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes and are taking medication, a low result means that you are controlling your condition.
HbA1c results can be artificially lowered by iron deficiency anaemia, and by haemoglobin problems such as sickle cell anaemia or thalassaemia. If you have one of these conditions then a fructosamine test can be used to check how your body is handling glucose.
What might a high result mean?
A high result can indicate pre-diabetes (a condition when blood sugar levels are high but not yet at diabetic levels) or full-blown diabetes. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes and are taking medication, an elevated result can indicate that you are not adequately controlling your condition.
Being overweight or obese is the biggest risk factor for high blood sugar and diabetes. However, inactivity, certain ethnicities, and some conditions such as polycystic ovaries can also raise your risk of diabetes.
How might I improve my result?
For people with type 2 diabetes, the goal is to lower HbA1C levels to a healthier level. The good news is that pre-diabetes and even diabetes can be reversed through weight loss (calorie restriction), exercise and maintaining a healthy diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates. In its later stages, type 2 diabetes may need management through medication.