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Hi! I’ve just been told that I’ve got type 2 diabetes and that I’ve got to start taking some tablets called metformin and have my blood tested. The doctor told me I needed to have the test, said it was called the HbA1c, then tried to explain it to me and I got completely confused cos I’d got so much going round in my brain. So can anyone tell me what the test is, what it means and why I have to have it done again and again? Thanks


When you get diagnosed with diabetes your doc will automatically do a blood glucose (BG) test and an HbA1c. Although they are both tests which involve glucose they indicate different things. A BG test simply measures the level of glucose in your blood. There are various different ones but when testing for diabetes a Fasting BG test is done to determine the amount of glucose in your blood after 8 hours of not eating. A BG test only measures the momentary amount of glucose in your blood and therefore give a ‘snap shot’ window.

The HbA1c test is different. Hb stands for haemoglobin which is what’s found in your red blood cells and responsible for carrying oxygen. The really interesting thing about Hb is that it interacts with glucose and if you’ve got loads of it floating around in your blood it stick to the stuff (binds with it). The HbA1c test measures the amount of glucose that is sticking in your blood cells and indicates if you’ve had high BG levels over a period of 6-12 weeks (the life of a blood cell). In terms of levels 4-5.6% is normal, 5.7-6.4% shows a risk of developing diabetes and 6.5% and over indicates the presence of diabetes. You should and need to have it done every 6 months cos it will tell you how well you’re controlling your diabetes