Hemoglobin A1c, or A1c for short, gives you a picture of your average blood sugar over 2 to 3 months. Red blood cells are tiny flexible discs responsible for carrying fresh oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen binds to hemoglobin, a special protein within these cells. Red blood cells are designed to CARRY oxygen, not burn it, so instead they rely on sugar for the energy they use to travel.
To better understand the A1c test, you will need to remember the last time you ate fried dough at the county fair. For your enjoyment, small, delicious pieces of fried dough are thrown into a greasy paper bag with loads of powdered sugar. The bag is shaken up, mixing the sugar and the dough together, coating the dough with a sweet amount of sugary goodness. The more sugar added to the bag, the thicker the powdered coating will be. Your red blood cell is no different than a yummy dough ball! The more sugar the cell is exposed to, the more sugar that will attach to it over time.
Because we know that the red blood cell lives approximately 3 months, when we measure how much sugar has attached to it, doctors can estimate the average blood sugar over an extended period of time.
Pre-diabetes is diagnosed when the A1C value falls between 5.7 and 6.4%. Diabetes is diagnosed when the test is 6.5% or higher.
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