Importance of HbA1c in diabetes monitoring

India is home to more than 77 million diabetics according to International Diabetes According to the World Health Organization, federally and in 2019, diabetes was reported to be the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

This data in patients with diabetes also correlates with the presence of other chronic conditions in these patients. According to the recently published Diabetes India Study supported by Eris Lifesciences, the mean HbA1c value was 8.1% in newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients in India.

Surprisingly, more than 50% of diabetes cases in India go undiagnosed and come to light at a late stage. Undiagnosed diabetes can be dangerous and a cause for great concern as it can lead to multiple organ failure and other related complications.

Before that, the diagnosis of diabetes depended mainly on the fasting blood glucose test. However, in 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) accepted and recommended the use of the HbA1c test for the effective diagnosis of diabetes.

What is the HbA1c test?

The HbA1c test, also known as the glycated or glycosylated hemoglobin test, measures blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months or checks the concentration of hemoglobin molecules that have glucose attached to them. For health professionals, the HbA1c test is a reliable source for measuring hyperglycemia and provides data that correlates with a patient’s risk of long-term diabetes complications. The test reflects the patient’s history of blood glucose accumulation and is considered a required risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke.

What does the HbA1c . test mean?

While traditional blood sugar tests (fasting and after meals) check blood sugar levels within a certain time frame, the HbA1c test measures blood glucose levels that have stabilized over the past three months. In addition, while routine blood glucose testing can give different results depending on the individual’s last meal and time of consumption, HbA1c test results are independent of these variables, This makes it reliable and standardized. Therefore, health professionals consider HbA1c testing to be a good alternative to blood sugar monitoring compared to traditional tests.

The lower the HbA1c, the lower the individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Similarly, a higher HbA1c indicates that the individual may be exposed to chronic conditions such as stroke or cardiovascular malfunction.

HbA1c: Frequency and Outcomes

In general, doctors recommend an HbA1c test if a patient’s lifestyle makes them susceptible to diabetes or if they have a history of diabetes. Medical professionals may also recommend testing once every three or six months depending on the patient’s medical condition.

When performing the HbA1c test, unlike conventional blood glucose tests, it does not require separate monitoring conditions such as fasting or after meals. Patients can share blood samples at any time they want, before or after their meal.

It is generally considered that an HbA1c score below 5.7 percent is good, while a score of 5.7 to 6.4 indicates prediabetes, and any score above 6.5 indicates that the patient has diabetes. Often, endocrinologists recommend treatments that help their diabetics keep their HbA1c score below 6.5.

It is clear that the HbA1c test can provide accurate results and share valuable information that can guide doctors to perfect treatment. Over the years, HbA1c testing has emerged as a convenient and effective form of early diabetes diagnosis, aimed at reducing the number of undiagnosed diabetics. It is therefore imperative that individuals regularly monitor their sugar levels every two to three months for effective disease diagnosis and management.

Please note: this article is for reference only. All medical decisions should be made after prior consultation with a medical professional.

Dr. Parag Shah, MD (Medical), DM (Endocrinology), DNB (Endocrinology), Consultant Diabetes & Endocrinology, Ahmedabad

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