I spent four days last week at one of my favorite professional conferences called Food As Medicine. I love going to professional conferences because they allow me to learn more information about my field and they also help me to stay current on new medical breakthroughs and changes in guidelines in the medical field. In the next several weeks I will be sharing information that I feel is important to get out to the general public. Today I want to focus on February guideline changes in Hemoglobin A 1C(HbA1C) blood levels for diagnosing diabetes.
Let me start with what this blood test is and what it measures. Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and it is used to carry oxygen to all of our cells. When there is extra glucose (or sugar) in the blood it will attach to the hemoglobin and prevent the hemoglobin from carrying oxygen for the rest of the life of the cell, which is about three months. By measuring the levels of glucose that have attached to the hemoglobin, and the level of extra glucose that is in the blood, this measurement will give an estimated level of glucose over approximately the last three months. This is a better measure than a blood draw or finger stick because these two tests only measure the blood level at the moment it is being taken. The Hba1c gives an idea of the blood glucose level over three month’s time. The new guidelines recommend that the level be 4.5-5.6% to be considered normal, 5.7-6.4% indicates an increased risk of developing diabetes and 6.5% and above can cause a person to be diagnosed with diabetes. These guidelines have reduced the levels at which someone can be diagnosed with diabetes. It also causes patients to be treated for high blood sugar levels at an earlier level. I think that is moving in the right direction to help prevent many of the devastating adverse health effects of diabetes as the disease progresses.
To be honest, in naturopathic school ten years ago we learned that our goal for HbA1C levels should hover around 4.0% Anything over 4.0% required education about diet and lifestyle issues revolving around eating, sleep and managing stress.