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August 25, 2022

Guide to HbA1c

HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) is your average blood sugar (glucose) level from the last two to three months. Also known as haemoglobin A1c or just A1c, it is produced in the body when glucose ‘sticks to your red blood cells and your body cannot use the sugar properly, meaning that more glucose sticks to the red blood cells and builds up in your blood

A HbA1c test is also used to monitor blood sugar levels if you have prediabetes and are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or to diagnose diabetes.

High HbA1c levels indicates that there is too much sugar in your blood and increases your risk of developing diabetes complications. These include heart attacks, strokes, blindness and peripheral neuropathy (sensation issues to hands and feet). 

Knowing your HbA1c level and understanding how to lower it can help you avoid serious complications. You can have your HbA1c checked frequently.

Most people have a HbA1c test every year, but if you are planning to have a baby, your treatment has changed recently, or you are struggling to manage your blood sugar levels, you may need the test more regularly.

It is important to understand what your results mean and how to prevent them from increasing. Your healthcare team will use the results to help you manage your levels.

Prediabetes HbA1c Range

A prediabetes Hba1c range is between 42 to 47mmol/mol or 6.0% to 6.4%.

Normal HbA1c Range

A HbA1c range below 42 mmol/mol or 6.0% is considered normal.

Target HbA1c Range

If you have prediabetes or are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, you should aim for a HbA1c level below the prediabetes range of 42mmol/mol or 6%.

A HbA1c level under 48mmol/mol or 6.5% indicates remission for a person with type 2 diabetes, meaning that they have a healthy blood glucose level for at least six months without taking medication.

If you have type 2 diabetes, your ideal HbA1c level is 48mmol/mol or below (6.5% or below).

Everyone is different so your healthcare team may suggest a unique, specific target that considers your current level and when your next test is. This will help you gradually decrease the level, rather than dramatically.

Although a HbA1c level slightly higher than your target puts you at an increased likelihood of developing complications, knowing your numbers and what they mean is a vital step.

Many factors can cause your HbA1c levels to change, including:

  • Being unwell
  • Taking other medications, such as steroids
  • Changes in lifestyle
  • Feeling stressed or depressed
  • Having anaemia

There are actions that you and your healthcare team can take to lower your levels down to your target:

  • Your diabetes team reviewing your medication and increasing the dose or trying a new medication
  • Ask your diabetes team about local diabetes education courses to understand diabetes further and help you understand the steps you can take to lower your HbA1c
  • Be more active
  • Adopt a balanced, healthy diet
  • Do no smoke - smoking makes it harder for blood to flow throughout your body
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