Know what glycated hemoglobin is?
That’s OK. Until the end of August, I didn’t either.
Here’s an explanation that will mean nothing to most of you. It’s a measurement, by percentage, of hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen — that’s coated by sugar.
A little bit of sugar-coated hemoglobin isn’t a bad thing. It’s expected. But as those levels build, it’s an indication that your body is struggling to produce enough insulin to metabolize sugars produced from carbohydrates … and bang, you have diabetes.
I became aware of A1C levels and tests at about the same time that New Doc did — after she noticed elevated glucose levels in my first blood tests. She initially said that I should expect a diagnosis of prediabetes, which would mean I have to be careful and do some things to bring down my sugar levels.
But the first A1C test revealed something different. It came in at 10.2.
Check that number on the handy chart above.
OK, it’s not that bad. But it’s pretty bad. And it set off alarms for New Doc right away … and that set me on a path that has changed my diet, my exercise habits and much of everything else in my life.
Here’s the thing about A1C — it’s the best measure of blood sugar levels because it’s not subject to the hourly ups and downs you see, even in you non-diabetic types. The sugars that attach to the hemoglobin tend to cycle through your body completely in three-ish months, so an A1C test every three months or so is a good way to track your progress without the hourly sugar spikes.
I had an appointment with my endocrinologist last night. She was excited about my glucose-level averages and she didn’t want to wait any longer to get a new A1C reading … because she thought it would have improved significantly. So, after talking with her, I walked down to the lab and got a new blood test.
The results? My new A1C level was 7.1 percent.
If you take another look at that chart, you’ll see that I’m not quite ready to start eating ice cream for dinner again. But my medical team — I have a medical team! — is pretty excited about the drop, considering that it took place in just three months. It means I’ve figured out how to eat what my body can properly (sort of) metabolize (with the help of meds and a daily insulin injection).
And it means that if I can continue my progress, I’ll be a candidate to manage my diabeetus with diet and exercise … and without insulin.
And that would make me a happy guy. And it would mean all the label reading — and the associated frustration — has been worth it.