The health risks posed by diabetes can be reduced by taking steps to control levels of glucose in the bloodstream. This may involve changing your diet, losing weight, taking regular exercise, or using medications.
The aim of glucose control therapies is to maintain glucose levels within a target range. If glucose levels are persistently above the target range, symptoms of hyperglycaemia may appear, and there will be a greater risk of developing the longer-term health problems that are caused by uncontrolled diabetes. If, on the other hand, glucose levels fall below the target range, symptoms of hypoglycaemia may occur.
To ensure that blood glucose stays within the target range, people with diabetes are encouraged to monitor their own glucose levels regularly throughout the day. This is called ‘self-monitoring’. It is recommended that blood glucose levels are kept within a target range between 4.0 to 7.0 mmol/litre before food and below 9.0 mmol/litre after food.
The HbA1c Test
In addition to daily self-monitoring, glucose levels are also checked using an HbA1c test. This is a blood test which is performed every 2 to 6 months, and is carried out by a healthcare professional. The HbA1c test measures the amount of glucose that was in the blood in the 6 to 12 weeks before the test was taken – in other words, it measures blood glucose levels over a longer period.
It is recommended that people with type 1 diabetes keep their HbA1c level below 7.5%, or below 6.5% if they are at a higher than normal risk of heart disease or stroke. For people with type 2 diabetes, the target HbA1c level is below 6.5%. People who are unable to meet these target levels can still benefit from a lesser reduction in HbA1c level as any decrease is beneficial. The greater the reduction achieved, the greater the benefit.
Download a brief guide to HbA1c tests below:
HbA1c Guide (in pdf format)
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