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Diabetes Health Center

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A1C Blood Test OK for Diabetes Diagnosis

New Guidelines Call for Using A1C Blood Test to Identify People With Prediabetes

How the A1C Test Works continued...

Under the new recommendations, people with A1C levels between 5.7% and 6.4% will be considered to have prediabetes and those with levels of 6.5% or higher will be considered to have diabetes.

Diabetes testing is recommended for:

  • Any adult who is overweight or obese (BMI of 25 or greater) with one or more additional risk factor for diabetes including: having a family history of the disease, belonging to a high-risk ethnic group (African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian-American), having high blood pressure or a history of gestational diabetes.
  • Anyone who is age 45 or older, regardless of risk factors.

Test Could Identify Millions

Buse says the new test could help identify millions of people with prediabetes who would otherwise not be tested for diabetes.

"I'm thinking of an overweight guy who is 40 years old who doesn't see the doctor unless he strains his back or is sick," he says.

Because conditions such as pain and infection can cause temporary elevations in blood sugar, this patient would probably not be tested for diabetes in this setting using the traditional blood glucose tests.

The new guidelines also call for patients with prediabetes to have access to programs designed to promote weight loss and lifestyle changes that could prevent the disease.

Third-party payers do not typically cover these programs but they can be highly effective for preventing diabetes, which is an expensive disease to treat if poorly managed, current ADA president for medicine and science Richard M. Bergenstal, MD, tells WebMD.

"Even modest weight loss and increases in activity can keep people with prediabetes from developing the disease," he says.

Recent studies suggest that overweight people who lose just 5% to 10% of their body weight and exercise as little as 30 minutes a day, a minimum of five days a week, can reduce their diabetes risk by close to 60%, Buse says.

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