Everyone is obsessed with the HbA1c results. From doctors to nurses and people with diabetes, everyone is looking forward for the next HbA1c.

But, what is this so famous HbA1c?

HbA1c , short name for glycated haemoglobin, provides the average blood glucose levels within 8-12 weeks.

When the glucose that is consumed, transformed and absorbed by your body reaches the blood stream, it gets normally attached to the red cells of the blood.

The amount of glucose that is combined with the red cells is directly proportional to the total amount of sugar that is in your system at that time.

Red blood cells survive in the human body for  8-12 weeks until new blood cells are produced. For that reason, it is possible to have an average of glucose concentration within this period of time, providing a useful longer-term measurement of blood glucose control.

The normal range of HbA1c

A normal HbA1c is considered to be around 48mmol/mol (6.5%).

This means that if your regular blood glucose tests (finger pricking) are normally high, the HbA1c levels will be high or vice versa. You can also have a considered low or normal HbA1c but actually it means that you can possibly being having hypos frequently.

But it is important to keep in mind that at the moment, HbA1c targets should be individualised. Everyone should discuss their own targets within their diabetes team. This target should be stablished taking to account other medical problems, age and social history of each individual.

Get your free colour coded HbA1c chart (with old and new measurements) to keep in your phone, desktop or to print here.

How is the HbA1c test done

The HbA1c is a normal blood test that is usually taken by a phlebotomist, who will take blood from your arm and send the blood sample to a laboratory.

This test should be done at least once a year but if necessary or your diabetes is not controlled it can be repeated every 3-6 months.

Who shouldn’t rely on the HbA1c results

The HbA1c can be less accurate for some individuals and doesn’t show a real value of the average blood glucose concentrations.

This group of individuals include people that have any condition that affects the average of red blood cells, such as haemolytic anaemia or blood loss. Also, people with decreased renal function and on dialysis can have different results of the HbA1c.

There is another blood test, Fructosamine, to give an accurate average of blood glucose concentration. This test help to understand how is the diabetes management. Keep in mind that fructosamine test would be a good way to have an idea of your diabetes control but for the past 2-3 weeks only.

It’s important to say that Fructosamine test is not used to diagnose diabetes. HbA1c and glucose tests are the primary recommendations for the diagnosis.

Get your free Fructosamine chart (with old and new measurements) to keep in your phone, desktop or to print here.

Why should I improve the HBA1c results?

Studies have shown that HbA1c improvement results even if it just reducing it by 1%. Either for people with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes this reduction will help to decrease the risk of microvascular complications by 25%.

The same study showed that this 1% reduction help:

  • 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

These are really good reasons to improve your diabetes management.

How can I improve my HbA1c levels?

This is a great question!

If the HbA1c is an average of blood glucose concentration within 2-3months, the best way to improve your last result is to keep your daily diabetes control the best way possible.

Here are few tips to improve your next HbA1c results and feel happy for all you have done:

Set a HbA1c target

As mentioned before, everyone should set a target for their HbA1c. Talk with your diabetes team if don’t have a target for yourself.

Check your blood glucose regularly

Checking your blood glucose on a daily basis is a great way to understand how your diabetes is going.

This practice help you to understand how the different types of food impact on your blood glucose. Having this information you will slowly do some positive changes in your diet.

Follow your diabetes medication regimen as prescribed by your doctor.

Medication such as tablets, non-insulin injectable and insulin are all part of your diabetes management along with a healthy diet and exercise.

Do not hold the tablets if there is no reason for it. If you struggle with some of the side effects, speak with your diabetes team and discuss other options.

If you are taking insulin, keep checking your blood glucose, keep a record of your readings and make a decision on insulin doses adjustments. Ask your diabetes team for advice for insulin doses adjustments.

Here is some help on this. Check our videos: basal, twice-daily, basal bolus regimen

Small changes on your diet are the key to success

This tip was already discussed in other article.

You do not need to do extreme changes to your diet but there is a lot of small changes that would have a great and positive impact on your blood glucose.

To know more about healthy diet read the following articles: Healthy diet, shopping tipssnacking and listen to our podcast about fruit intake.

Increase physical activity

I am not asking you to join the gym and start jogging every day. Again, small changes are the key:

  • If you use the bus, take off on the previous bus stop so you can walk a bit
  • If you use the car everywhere, try to avoid driving for small trips and walk instead.
  • Use the outdoors gym provided by the city council- start once a week and increase slowly the number of times
  • Walk more often
  • Dance! Put some music on and dance at home!
  • Search for dance classes or workout classes on youtube
  • Do the 7 min workout, starting once a week and increasing the amount of times per week. Video here
  • Organise/join walks in the neighbourhood  with your neighbours to keep yourself and other motivated
  • If you struggle with arthritis, you can still do adapted exercises and or join a swim class.

This are some of the most important key tips to follow in order to improve your HbA1c, your diabetes and your future.

Challenge yourself and thrive for a better Diabetes!