Hemoglobin A1C: Reason for the Test and the Science Behind It

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Red Blood Cells
Red blood cells or erythrocytes.
The term HbA1C and its more common abbreviation A1C, is a familiar term to the diabetic or pre-diabetic patient. A1C refers to blood hemoglobin that has bonded to sugar molecules. It is easy to detect, and since it is stable over time, the A1C blood test is an excellent indicator of “blood sugar” level.

Article Contents

We here present artwork and a brief text, coupled with a most helpful Khan Academy video, so that, hopefully, the pre-diabetic or diabetic patient, who has a measure of technical background, can understand what the A1C test is all about.

Hemoglobin: Image Zephyris English Language Wikipedia

Hemoglobin Image

Our second image illustrates hemoglobin’s 3-D branch structure using red for its two alpha (α) chains and blue for its two beta (β) chains. A sugar molecule forms a covalent bond to the beta chains producing a glycated structure. The 4 oxygen carrying heme units in each hemoglobin molecule (green) are drawn in such a way as to illustrate the shape of their carbon-skeleton.

Khan Academy Video: A1C Levels

Let’s view the following Khan Academy video, allowing it to review what we have covered thus far, and to provide additional details, broadening our understanding of the A1C test and its relevancy.

Concluding Remarks

Red blood cells have a life expectancy of approximately 3 to 4 months. Once formed, a glycated hemoglobin molecule does not lose its attached sugar. This allows the physician to take a blood specimen a reduced number of times per year, giving a stable, rather than a spike sugar level evaluation of the patient.

This provides a most useful tool in the evaluation of a patient’s diabetic potential, while not requiring fasting.

Note: You might also enjoy Comparing Hemoglobin and Chlorophyll


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