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New NIH Fact Sheet Explains Test for Diabetes, Prediabetes

Information helps clinicians interpret results (January 26)

A new fact sheet from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains the A1C test, a widely used and important test to diagnose type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, and to monitor blood glucose levels of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

The A1C blood test provides information about average blood glucose levels over the preceding 3 months. The test is also referred to as the hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) or glycohemoglobin test. The test result is reported as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the higher is a person’s average blood glucose levels, which can cause complications in people with diabetes. A normal A1C level is below 5.7%.

Originally, the A1C test had been recommended only for monitoring diabetes. But in 2009, an international committee of experts convened by the American Diabetes Association, the International Diabetes Federation, and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes recommended expanding the use of the test to include diagnosing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

The test is convenient because it does not require fasting. It also helps providers adjust medication for patients with diabetes to reduce the risk of long-term complications.

The NIH fact sheet covers a wide range of information, including:

  • How the test works
  • Other blood tests for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes
  • The accuracy of blood tests
  • Where to learn more about A1C tests in patients with hemoglobin variants
  • A1C targets

Source: NIH; January 26, 2014.

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