The term HbA1c refers to glycated haemoglobin. It develops when haemoglobin, a protein within red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body, joins with glucose in the blood, becoming ‘glycated’.
By measuring glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), clinicians are able to get an overall picture of what our average blood sugar levels have been over a period of weeks/months.
For people with diabetes this is important as the higher the HbA1c, the greater the risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
HbA1c is also referred to as haemoglobin A1c or simply A1c.
Definition of HbA1c
How does HBA1c return an accurate average measurement of average blood glucose?
When the body processes sugar, glucose in the bloodstream naturally attaches to haemoglobin.
The amount of glucose that combines with this protein is directly proportional to the total amount of sugar that is in your system at that time.
If your blood sugar levels have been high in recent weeks, your HbA1c will also be greater.
In Australia, the HbA1c target for people with diabetes to aim for is:
- 6.5 – 7% (48 – 53/mmoL)
Note that this is a general target and people with diabetes should be given an individual target to aim towards by their health team. Children and the elderly may be aiming for higher.
An individual HbA1c should take into account your ability to achieve the target based on your day to day life and whether you are at risk of having regular or severe hypos.
Your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator can help you decide on a target that is both appropriate and realistic for your individual circumstances.
How is the test conducted?
The test is a simple blood test and with current technology is simple as a finger prick.