Hemoglobin A1C Testing for Diabetes

Nov 15, 2011

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy


If your pants are on fire, that is really more painful in Britain than it is in Canada. In Dauphin I work with a couple of Loris. In Manchester I might work under a lorry or even in one. I love how different people say English words and how the words we use change depending on what part of the world we are in. In England when they say pants, they are talking about underwear. When they say lorry, they are talking about a truck. My favorite group of English speakers are Doriss relatives. Both of my wifes parents are from Germany. When Emily was small we went to Hamburg to visit Doriss moms side of the family. They were lovely people and they all spoke excellent English except one uncle. They all sounded the same to me when they spoke German as my German is non-existent. However, they all spoke English differently. One of Doriss aunts went to University in Arizona. So to my ear she sounded normal. Another of the aunts and Doriss grandmother had spent time in England, so they sounded very British. One of the cousins had spent time in Australia, so she sounded very Aussie. There were two other young cousins who hadnt been abroad yet, so I really wanted one to go to Boston and another to go to South Africa so the Baumgarteners could have a full compliment of English accents.


How you say a word can change how others look at the word. If you are diabetic, how you test your blood sugar can change how you look at your disease. For example, if you are diabetic, you know you have to test your blood sugar at home. But, there is another blood sugar test out there that looks at your diabetes differently. We have lots and lots of evidence from huge studies that show blood sugar testing at home and with this other test will help diabetics. These big studies have funny names like DCCT and UKPDS and they say that the closer a diabetic person keeps their blood sugar to normal values the less chance they have of getting the big four problems of diabetes.


The big four problems associated with diabetes are heart disease, kidney disease, amputation, and blindness. So, if you are diabetic you should follow your diet and exercise plan, use your medications appropriately, and test your blood sugar at home. Home blood sugar testing is one of the best ways for you to see if your diabetic plan that you developed with your health care professional is keeping your blood sugar within normal limits. And if you keep your blood sugar within normal limits, you are more likely to avoid the diabetes big four.


So what is this other blood sugar test? It is called a hemoglobin A1C or glycosylated hemoglobin test. It gives an average of how your blood sugar has been doing over the last 3 months. Most diabetes guidelines say it should be done at least once a year. Lets talk about how a hemoglobin A1C test works.


Red blood cells carry oxygen in your blood. Red blood cells look like doughnuts with the hole in the middle not quite all the way through. Or another way to picture them is they look like a ball that has been pinched together in the middle. What red blood cells look like is important, because of what they do. A red blood cell picks up its load of oxygen in the lungs, goes through the heart, and drops off its oxygen at a tissue. To get to its tissue, the red blood cell must bend and squeeze to get through very narrow tubes called capillaries.


Now lets add diabetes to the mix. If you have diabetes, you have too much sugar in your blood. The hemoglobin A1C test checks to see how many of your red blood cells are coated with sugar. If your blood sugar control over the past 3 months has been good, your hemoglobin A1C will be good. Why does the hemoglobin A1C test 3 months worth of blood sugar control? Because red blood cells live about 3 months.


What number does your doctor want to see on your hemoglobin A1C test? The latest guidelines say most Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics should aim to get their hemoglobin A1C to 7% or less. What if your hemoglobin A1C is higher than 7%? That just gives you room to improve your diabetes control. Studies show that for every 1% you can lower you hemoglobin A1C, you reduce your chances of eye, kidney and nerve diseases by 40%. If you can get your hemoglobin A1C from 10% to 9% even though you arent at ideal range yet your eyes, kidneys and nerves will thank you.


To get a hemoglobin A1c test your usually have to go see your doctor. They then have to send your blood to a lab to get your hemoglobin A1C tested. Not so on Wednesday, November 23! On Wednesday, November 23 the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy has a portable hemoglobin A1C tester available from 9 am to 3 pm. The whole test takes less than 15 minutes. There are only a limited number of tests available. Call the pharmacy at 638-4602 to book your appointment today. Come have a different look at your blood sugar.


People in different parts of the world look at English words differently, so they say them differently. Being biased, I think more people should say words like we do in Dauphin. I just so happens that we have a German student working at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy to improve her English. Her name is Anna, and although her English is very good already, I think she needs more Dauphinisms in her vocabulary. Come down to the store to say hi to Anna and maybe some of our expressions can go back across the pond with her.


As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.


The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.


We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at www.dcp.ca


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