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Hemoglobin A1c: What is it? Why should you care?

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95% of all cases of diabetes.1 Often times, there can be a long period of time between when diabetes develops and obvious symptoms become present. Early detection of disease is crucial to prevent the progression from prediabetes to diabetes, or to reduce the risk of complications of diabetes. Long term complications of diabetes include cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke, nerve, kidney, eye, and foot damage, bacterial and fungal skin infections, hearing impairment, and Alzheimer's disease.2

Am I at risk? Should I get tested?

Testing for diabetes should be considered in adults of any age who are overweight or obese (BMI > 25 kg/m2) who also have one or more of the following additional risk factors:

  • 1st degree relative with diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure (>140/90 mmHg or on medication for hypertension)
  • Abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride results: HDL ("good" cholesterol) <35 mg/dL or triglyceride (fat in the bloodstream) levels >250 mg/dL
  • High risk race/ethnicity: African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Islander
  • Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Women who delivered a baby weighing >9 lbs or were diagnosed with gestational diabetes

Additionally, testing should begin at age 45 for ALL patients, regardless of BMI. Being overweight is strongly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, but not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight.2  

What test should I be asking for?

Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c, glycosylated hemoglobin) is a blood test used to measure the average blood sugar level over the previous 2-3 months. Sugar molecules in the bloodstream react with hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells, forming a new molecular compound on the surface of the cell. The rate at which these new compounds form is directionally proportional to the amount of sugar in the blood stream; i.e. the higher the blood sugar levels, the more of these compounds are formed, and the higher the HbA1c result.

A HcbA1c result less than 5.7% is normal. A result of 5.7-6.4% indicates that you are prediabetic and are at an increased risk for developing diabetes. A result of 6.5% or higher is considered diabetic. 

Find out your risk for diabetes by getting your HbA1c results for just $15 as part of MWLS of Bismarck's direct access testing. No doctor's order required!

Help! I just found out I'm prediabetic or I've developed type 2 diabetes. What can I do?

Without weight loss, up to 30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years.3  If you're overwight, losing just 5% of your body weight will dramatically decrease your risk.3

Our program is designed to reduce your risk of diabetes. Or, if you have already developed diabetes, we help patients achieve better HbA1c control on less medication.

Call us today at 701-354-0964 or contact us for more information on how we can help!


1. American Diabetes Association. Classification and diagnosis of diabetes. Sec. 2. In Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2015;38(Suppl. 1):S8S16
2. "Diseases and Conditions: Diabetes."
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 1998-2017. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
3. "The Surprising Truth about Prediabetes." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 21 Jan. 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2017