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What Is the HbA1c Test For and Its Importance in Understanding Diabetes

Fact-checked by Vincent Sales

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Feb 27, 2023

What Is the HbA1c Test For and Its Importance in Understanding Diabetes

It’s not uncommon for doctors to ask their patients to undergo certain medical tests, just like the HbA1c test. But what is the HbA1c test for, how is it done, and what do the results of this test mean?

What Is the HbA1c Test?

Medical tests are often used in order to help doctors diagnose certain conditions or illnesses. This is because doctors can only do so much during a physical exam. Some illnesses can only be confirmed when a patient undergoes certain tests.

In the case of the HbA1c or A1c test, it is a test that measures a person’s glycated hemoglobin. This is basically the amount of glucose or sugar attached to the hemoglobin in our blood.

Hemoglobin is a type of protein that’s found in our blood cells. Its main purpose is to take oxygen from our lungs and distributes it to our organs and to the rest of our body. In addition, it’s also responsible for taking carbon dioxide from our organs and to the lungs where it can be exhaled.

The results of this test can give doctors an idea of how much sugar is in a person’s blood over a 3-month period. Three months is how long our blood cells usually last.

What Is the HbA1c Test Used For?

The main purpose of the HbA1c test is to check a person’s blood sugar levels. Doctors may ask their patients to undergo this test if they believe that their patient might be prediabetic or diabetic.

The test itself doesn’t check for diabetes itself. To diagnose diabetes, the patient needs to be within certain criteria for a doctor to confirm that they are diabetic. What the HbA1c test does is it simply lets doctors know if the patient’s blood sugar levels are at an elevated rate.

In persons with normal blood sugar levels, the level of HbA1c should be at 6% or lower. In patients who are prediabetic, the test can show it at around 6% – 6.4%.

But for diabetics, the level of HbA1c can be at 6.5% or higher. Ideally, diabetics should maintain their blood sugar levels at 6.5% or lower in order to avoid experiencing any serious complications.

What Else Is It Used For?

Aside from diagnosis, the HbA1c test also gives diabetics and their doctors an idea of how well the diabetes management plan is working. Ideally, patients with diabetes need to undergo a HbA1c test every 3-6 months.

This helps doctors figure out if the current plan is effective, so that changes can be made. If the results show that the patient’s blood sugar is at a healthy level, then it means that the management plan is working, and the patient just needs to keep doing what they’re doing.

Basically, it helps diabetics keep tabs on their health, and know if they are managing their condition well.

Prediabetics can also benefit from the HbA1c test. This helps them know their risk of diabetes, and if what they’re doing is enough to prevent them from developing diabetes.

How Is It Done?

The procedure for the HbA1c test is pretty straightforward. Patients don’t need to prepare for the test, and all that happens is a nurse will take a sample of the patient’s blood. Afterwards, the blood will be sent to the laboratory to be tested for the levels of HbA1c.

How Is It Different from Measuring Blood Glucose Levels?

It’s important to note that the HbA1c is different from measuring blood glucose levels. The main difference is that the HbA1c test shows the trend in their blood sugar levels over a period of time.

The blood glucose test, on the other hand, measures the amount of blood sugar that is currently in a person’s blood at the time the test was done.

This means that the HbA1c is better suited in diagnosing diabetes compared to measuring blood glucose levels.

Key Takeaways

The HbA1c test is a routine test that helps a person know if they might have elevated blood sugar levels. While this test does not necessarily show if a person has diabetes or not, it helps doctors give a proper diagnosis regarding a patient’s condition.

Learn more about Diabetes here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Fact-checked by

Vincent Sales

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Feb 27, 2023

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