The Biomarker Handbook is a curated series that seeks to provide readers with insights on each biomarker we cover in our blood test packages and its relation to our body.
What is HbA1c?
HbA1c is one of the most useful biomarkers for people who have diabetes, and for those who want to know their risk of developing diabetes. HbA1c is a biomarker that stands for glycated haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is part of your red blood cells that helps carry oxygen around your body. When this joins with glucose in your blood, it becomes “glycated”.
Overview: Understanding your red blood cells and glycated haemoglobin
What’s so useful about HbA1c?
Your red blood cells survive for only 8-12 weeks before being renewed. Thus measuring your HbA1c helps to reflect your average blood glucose levels over those 8-12 weeks, giving you a much more useful longer-term gauge of blood glucose control.
HbA1c in diagnosis
HbA1c can indicate people with prediabetes or diabetes as follows:
What are the benefits of lowering HbA1c?
Two large-scale studies – the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) and the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) – demonstrated that improving HbA1c by 1% (or 11 mmol/mol) for people with Type I diabetes or Type II diabetes cuts the risk of microvascular complications by 25%.
Microvascular complications include:
- Retinopathy – the most common form of diabetic eye disease
- Neuropathy – a nerve disorder that may arise from Type I or Type II diabetes
- Diabetic nephropathy – a kidney disease that is common among diabetics
Research has also shown that people with Type 2 diabetes who reduce their HbA1c level by 1% are:
- 19% less likely to suffer cataracts
- 16% less likely to suffer heart failure
- 43% less likely to suffer amputation or death due to peripheral vascular disease
In a Nutshell: the complications that arise from elevated HbA1c levels
HbA1c is an optimal indicator of blood glucose levels. For that reason, it is advisable to get tested regularly if you are looking to better regulate it. Till our next post, remember prevention is better than cure!
Interested in other biomarkers, check out the rest of The Biomarker Handbook.
For more information, drop us a message and we will get back to you.