Blood glucose levels through HbA1c- Why should you check it? What does it tell you?
June 9, 2022

Diabetes is a serious concern in India. According to the WHO,  8.7% of the population in the age band of 20 to 70 years suffers from this condition. A slew of factors has led to the growing prevalence of this disease- urbanisation, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyle, among others. And the worrying part is that diabetes can result in or increase the risk of a host of serious health problems that include:

  • Heart disease/ stroke
  • Nerve damage in the feet
  • Blindness due to diabetic retinopathy
  • Kidney failure

Clearly, diabetes is not something you can ignore. Monitoring your HbA1c levels and average blood glucose plays a key role in warding off this disease or keeping it under control. Read on to know more.


HbA1c levels and average blood glucose- What does it tell you?

The Haemoglobin A1c test or the HbA1c test is also called the glycated haemoglobin test or glycosylated haemoglobin test. It measures the amount of glucose or blood sugar attached to the part of the blood cell that helps move oxygen through the body to various parts. In fact, HbA1c refers to the joining of the glucose with haemoglobin, meaning that the haemoglobin is glycated. The HbA1c that is formed is directly connected to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Blood glucose levels normal range indicates that the task of oxygenating the entire body through haemoglobin is being carried out efficiently.

What is important to note here is that this test gives you the average blood glucose levels over the past three to four months since red blood cells are active for this period. In this way, the test tells you how much sugar or glucose the blood has been carrying for this period.

How does the HbA1C test measure glucose levels in your blood?

The protein in red blood cells is called haemoglobin. It does the critical function of taking the oxygen from your lungs throughout the body. When the glucose, that is the sugar in blood cells, builds up, it sticks to the haemoglobin in the blood cells. The HbA1c test measures the glucose levels in blood simply by measuring the glucose that is bound to the protein. The HbA1c test quickly shows up higher than normal blood glucose levels so that you can take corrective action immediately.  

Blood glucose test vs. blood glucose levels HbA1c test

Now you know that the HbA1c test measures the average blood glucose levels over a certain period, that is three to four months. The blood glucose test is a simpler one that measures the amount of glucose in your blood right at that moment. This blood glucose test is the one that you see diabetics taking for themselves at home with a compact kit after drawing blood via a finger prick.  Sometimes this is done on an empty stomach and repeated after mealtime.

For the HbA1c test, the blood is collected from the vein and not via finger prick. You need to go to a trusted lab to get this test done. So, basically, a simple blood glucose test gives you your sugar levels at that moment, whereas the HbA1c test gives you your sugar levels through a 3-4-month period. The latter is a more comprehensive look at how your body is regulating your blood sugar levels and it is a critical test that helps you to control your diabetes.

The key thing to remember is even if you regularly check your blood glucose levels before and after meals to track your diabetes, you may not be doing enough. This is important, of course, but this test that you can do at home with a finger-prick only tells you your blood sugar levels at a specific point of time. These results may hinge heavily on what your previous meal contained. The HbA1c test, in contrast, gives you a more comprehensive and much more balanced picture of the past three to four months’ status of your blood sugar levels. This is the reason why understanding the HbA1c levels and average blood glucose is so important in diabetes treatment and management.

Why should you check HbA1c and average blood glucose levels?

The HbA1c test is a simple way to measure and monitor blood glucose levels. It helps you compare your findings with blood glucose levels in healthy adults to find out if you have an impending problem. This test is a common diagnostic tool for detection of diabetes. By checking the HbA1c levels and average blood glucose periodically, you can quickly identify any changes in your body and address it before it can have a long-lasting impact on your health or lifestyle.

Most importantly, measuring HbA1c levels and average blood glucose tells you about your risk of long-term complications arising from diabetes. If you are a diabetic, this test gives you a clear picture of how well you have been managing it over the past months and whether you need to pay more attention to it. The HbA1c blood glucose levels chart serves as both a diagnosis tool to detect diabetes and a monitoring tool to evaluate your efficiency in managing the condition.

How often should you check HbA1c and average blood glucose levels?

If you are diabetic or prediabetic, you must monitor blood glucose levels with this test every three months. This tells you if your current medications are working like they should or if you need to relook at them with the doctor.

However, if the tests have consistently shown normal blood glucose levels, then you may be able to extend the gap between tests a little bit. Typically, diabetics must get the HBbA1c levels and average blood glucose test done at least every six months. Usually, you need to take the test as soon as you are diagnosed with diabetes. Then the following factors may determine how often you need to measure the blood glucose levels in this way:

  • The type of diabetes you have
  • How effectively you can control blood sugar
  • The kind of treatment you are undergoing
  • The stage of treatment

For prediabetics, testing at least once every year is highly beneficial.

What are the normal glucose levels in blood?

The HbA1c blood glucose levels in healthy adults, that is non-diabetics, should be between 4 and 5.6%. A higher number, 5.7% to 6.4% indicates prediabetes, which puts you at high risk of developing diabetes. If the HbA1c and average blood glucose levels test gives a number that is above 6.5%, you are diabetic and need to address it quickly.

For diabetics, the goal is to keep the HbA1c and average blood glucose levels below 7%. Taking the test every three months lets you monitor blood glucose levels so that you know if it is within the acceptable levels.

It is also important to know what factors can skew glucose levels in blood shown by this test:

  • Anaemia or other ailments that affect haemoglobin
  • Some supplements, usually vitamin C and E
  • High cholesterol
  • Malfunctioning liver
  • Malfunctioning kidney
  • Extreme stress/depression
  • Sudden lifestyle change
  • Other medications (for example, steroids)
  • Common infections (more about this later)

Remember that when your HbA1c and average blood glucose levels are elevated for a significant period, it means that you are at greater risk of long-term adverse impact from the condition.

Why does infection increase blood glucose levels?

If you are testing your HbA1c and blood glucose levels when you are unwell, the numbers may be skewed extremely. Despite your best efforts to maintain normal blood glucose levels, sometimes even a minor illness can increase it to undesirable levels.

This is because infection of any kind creates a stress response in the body. The production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol shoots up. Both these dampen the action that insulin performs in the body. To compensate for this, the body produces more glucose. This results in higher blood glucose levels. Remember that this may happen even if you are diligently taking your medicines and following the doctor’s advice about diabetes management.

How to prepare for a HbA1c test?

This is not a fasting test, so you do not need to get the HbA1c and average blood glucose levels test done on an empty stomach. You can simply walk into a lab and get the test done.

For this test, blood is usually drawn from a vein in your arm. It is just a pinprick and you might feel some momentary discomfort. The result will be shown in the form of percentages that you can compare with the blood glucose levels normal range to understand if you have your diabetes under control and how well.

Safe, accurate testing at NURA

When you need to keep track of your diabetes or you need to know if your family history of diabetes has affected you, it is essential to get tested periodically and make sure that the testing is done by a reputed lab that guarantees accurate results. At NURA, we have the expertise, the technology and the technicians to give you the best results for all your testing needs. Dr Kutty’s Healthcare, in conjunction with the world leader in medical technology, Fuji Films, offers you the best testing outcomes at NURA.

Whether you are a prediabetic, diabetic or a healthy individual who wishes to be proactive about health, the HbA1c testing at NURA is a great first step to take. You can monitor blood glucose levels to check if your body is showing any changes, check your HbA1c levels and ensure that it is within normal range and verify that your diabetes management is on track with our tests.