An A1C level helps a diabetic see how well he or she has controlled their blood sugars over an average of a 2-3 month period. This is one of the first tests an endocrinologist will run on you. A1c results are obtained by a simple blood test and take just a few minutes to get the results. You should know your result before leaving the office.
The A1c chart above shows how your blood sugars average over a 2-3 month period of time determine your A1c score. The goal is a 7 or less. This means your average blood sugar reads at 150 or lower. Every diabetic is different and each will have their own individual goal but the standard has been 7 or less.
The A1C test measures the level of what is called “glycated hemoglobin.” The hemoglobin is the protein in the red blood cells that allows those cells to carry oxygen. The molecular structure of hemoglobin allows the red blood cell to pick-up oxygen in the lung and to release it in an oxygen-deprived body cell.
Of course, the hemoglobin in the red blood cells does not link to only oxygen. Hemoglobin molecules in the blood also link to other chemicals in the blood stream. If a diabetic has a high level of blood sugar in his or her bloodstream, that excess sugar enters the red blood cells. The hemoglobin in the blood cells links to the entering sugar.
Biochemists have given a name to the process that creates a linkage between hemoglobin and sugar. Biochemists call that process “glycation.” Once hemoglobin links to a sugar molecule, it becomes glycated hemoglobin. The level of glycated hemoglobin in the blood indicates the level of sugar in the blood.
Once the body produces a molecule of hemoglobin, that hemoglobin remains in the bloodstream for two to three months. If it becomes glycated hemoglobin, it continues to stay in a red blood cell for the normal “life” of a hemoglobin molecule (2-3 months). The A1C level gives the physician an overview of a patient’s blood sugar level for a two to three month interval. Exactly what level does the physician want to see?
What the Endocrinologist Sees
A trained physician should know that a patient without diabetes usually has an A1C level of 5%. The A1C level in a diabetic can be expected to rise above 5%. What sort of rise should alarm the physician? What sort of rise should let the physician know that his or her patient needs an improved diabetes treatment plan?
A diabetic who has A1C levels of 7% does not need to make major changes in his or her treatment plan. Such a diabetic has an A1C level that shows only a mild rise above the normal A1C level. Such a diabetic has come close to achieving control of his or her blood sugar level.
A diabetic who has A1C levels of 25% would hear pleas from his or her physician to make immediate changes in the existing diabetes treatment schedule. An A1C level of 25% would show that the treatment schedule currently in use had failed to offer a means for control of the diabetic’s blood sugar level as the blood sugar levels would be running too high.
Of course a physician would not call for great changes in a diabetes treatment plan after looking at only a single A1C level. The physician would want to know if that level had remained stable for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Only when an A1C l level has shown such stability does a trained physician feel ready to base a treatment schedule on that A1C level.
The A1C level reveals what a single test of the blood sugar level can never hope to reveal. The A1C level discloses the degree to which a diabetic has managed to maintain an acceptable blood sugar level. By examining a patient’s A1C level, a physician can watch for indications that a patient might have subjected his or her body tissues to an abnormally large amount of glucose.
High A1C levels indicates passage of a 2 to 3 month period during which the red blood cells have managed to link up with excess sugar molecules. During that same period, the patient’s circulatory system and nervous system has been under stress. This type of a result needs to be met with better control of your blood sugars.