March 3, 2010 - You don't have to fast before taking the newly recommended
A1c test to screen for diabetes -- and it spots early diabetes and heart
disease better than the older test, researchers find.
Late last year, the American Diabetes Association
recommended using the A1c test to screen for diabetes. The test had been
around for decades, but recent standardization made it useful as a screening
And now there's convincing evidence that A1c outperforms the older test,
which measured blood sugar (glucose) in people who had fasted for eight hours.
It comes from a study in which Johns Hopkins researcher Elizabeth Selvin, PhD,
MPH, and colleagues compared results of both tests in 11,000 adults screened
with both tests.
A1c "was similarly associated with a risk of diabetes and more strongly
associated with risks of cardiovascular disease and death from any cause as
compared with fasting glucose," Selvin and colleagues report.
The ADA says that an A1c level at or above 6.5% means you have diabetes.
Selvin's team showed that the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and death rises
Compared to people with a normal A1c level of 5.0% to 5.5%, they found
An A1c level of less than 5.0% means a 48% lower risk of diabetes and about
the same risk of heart disease.
An A1c level of 5.5% to 6.0% means an 86% higher risk of diabetes and a 23%
higher risk of heart disease.
An A1c level of 6.0% to 6.5% means a 4.5-fold higher risk of diabetes and a
78% higher risk of heart disease.
An A1c level of 6.5% or more means a 16.5-fold higher risk of diabetes and
a twofold higher risk of heart disease.
A1c stands for glycated hemoglobin. The A1c percentage measures how much
sugar is attached to the blood's hemoglobin protein. The A1c test result gives
a measure of how well your body has controlled the amount of sugar in the blood
over the past two to three months.
For this reason, the A1c test is not as prone as the fasting glucose test to
individual fluctuations due to stress or illness. But it is more expensive, and
the test can be misleading in patients with certain forms of anemia.
The Selvin study appears in the March 4 issue of the New England Journal
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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
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