If you are diabetic, you know that it is important to maintain and test your blood sugar levels daily. But did you know that it’s also recommended that you test your hemoglobin A1c levels? What is hemoglobin A1c? Hemoglobin is the compound in the red blood cells that transports oxygen. One of the types of hemoglobin is called hemoglobin A (HbA); hemoglobin A1c is a specific subtype of HbA. Molecules of glucose (sugar) in the blood bind to hemoglobin A1c and stay bound to it for months. The higher the amount of blood glucose, the higher the amount of hemoglobin A1c, and by measuring its value, one can obtain their average blood sugar level during the previous 8 to 12 weeks. Why test hemoglobin A1c levels? Because it measures average blood glucose levels over a period of two to three months, the hemoglobin A1c blood test is commonly used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Once diagnosed, the A1c test is then used to gauge how well you are managing your diabetes. This test goes by many other names including glycated hemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin, hemoglobin A1c, and HbA1c, but no matter what you call it, if the results show a high A1c level, then your blood sugar is not well-control ed. And if you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, the poorer your blood sugar control, the higher your risk of diabetes-related complications such as kidney failure, vision problems, and leg or foot numbness. (Conversely, the lower your A1c level, the lower your risk for diabetic complications.) The importance of testing hemoglobin A1c to manage diabetes The A1c test is known as the “gold standard” for evaluating the risk of damage to tissues caused by high blood sugar levels. It is therefore one of the most useful tools to assess how effectively your diet and your diabetes medication are regulating your blood sugar, and it can help your doctor determine whether your medication needs to be adjusted. If you are diabetic and want to have better insight into your blood sugar levels, get a hemoglobin A1c test. Discuss this test with your physician if you have further questions. Remember, if you have diabetes, keeping good control of your blood sugar reduces your risk for long-term health problems, like eye, heart, and kidney problems, and even stroke. Take control of your diabetes and your health; order your own hemoglobin A1c test every 3 months!