5 Things Every Diabetic Should Know About HbA1c

If you or someone you love has diabetes, you may have heard the term “Hemoglobin A1c,” or HbA1c, in reference to tests that monitor blood sugar levels. Monitoring HbA1c is an important part of diabetes care, and it can have a huge impact on your ability to maintain a healthy mouth and body.

These essential facts on HbA1c will show what the numbers are all about.

1. Measures the Sugars Attached to Your Blood Cells

Your HbA1c value gives the percentage of red blood cells that have glucose (sugar) attached to them. Because red blood cells live for about 3 months, the HbA1c test measures the average blood sugar levels across a two or three-month period (according to WebMD). If your HbA1c level is higher, more sugar is bound to your blood cells.

2. HbA1c Tests Give a Broad Perspective

HbA1c values are used to measure your blood sugar control over time, which differs from blood glucose readings that diabetic patients take multiple times per day. The main difference is that an HbA1c test will let your doctor learn about your blood sugar levels over a long period, while glucose readings only provide information about the past few hours.

High HbA1c numbers may be a warning sign of diabetes or of complications from uncontrolled diabetes – diminished healing, blindness, and even kidney failure.

3. Diabetes Can Affect Oral Health

If you have diabetes, be sure to take the time to discuss your condition with your dentist and dental hygienist. Many people with diabetes are at increased risk of gum disease, dry mouth, fungal infections, tooth decay, and mouth ulcers. Diabetes may also diminish and slow your ability to heal after dental surgeries such as tooth extractions.

Maintaining a target HbA1c value (as advised by your doctor) can lower your risk for oral health complications. This is also an important part in maintaining your overall health.

4. Diabetics Should Receive Regular HbA1c Tests

If you have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends having your HbA1c levels measured by a doctor at least twice per year. When you get an HbA1c test, your health care provider will draw a sample of blood to send to their lab for testing. Note: there is no need to fast before having this test.

5. Target HbA1c Levels Should be Lower than 6.5%

While every person with diabetes will have different needs, your physician will want a target HbA1c lower than 6.5%. In comparison, people without diabetes typically have HbA1c levels between 4% and 5.6%. People with an HbA1c between 5.7% and 6.4% may be at risk of developing diabetes.

About the Author

Christine Downey, DDS, MS & Ben Anders, DDS Candidate
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry

The information on this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Tooth Wisdom® and Oral Health America do not recommend or endorse any specific dentists, products, procedures, opinions, or other information mentioned. See full Terms & Conditions.

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