Key Takeaways

  • Hemoglobin A1C is an important screen for diabetic risk, providing a long-term snapshot of blood glucose concentration in comparison to other tests.
  • Levels that are consistently above 5.6% may warrant a visit to a physician.
  • Because of its role in diagnosing diabetes, HbA1c is included in SiPhox Health’s base panel.

A1C results can be interpreted using the following reference ranges, but it is important to consult with your physician if your level falls outside the normal range.

According to the CDC, several factors can provide a false report of your A1C results, including:

  • Kidney failure, liver disease, anemia
  • Less common hemoglobin types that people of African, Mediterranean, or Southeast Asian descent may have
  • Certain medications
  • Blood loss or blood transfusions
  • Early or late pregnancy

What is Hemoglobin A1C?

Hemoglobin (Hb) is a type of protein that circulates in the blood and is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to tissues throughout the body. [1]

A HbA1c test is a measure of the percent of total hemoglobin that has been glycosylated, or attached to glucose (sugar). This is significant because the percentage of glycosylated HbA1c correlates to the average amount of glucose that is present in the bloodstream over the past 2 to 3 months. Since diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are too high, elevated HbA1c can be indicative of pre-diabetes or diabetes. [2]

Why is measuring HbA1c important?

Many sources suggest that A1C levels between 5.7% and 6.4% are indicative of pre-diabetes, whereas higher levels are indicative of diabetes. [3]. According to the CDC, 136 million American adults have either diabetes or pre-diabetes [4], and out of all American adults with diabetes, 47.4% had A1C values over 7%.

That’s where the HbA1c test really shines— in its value as a predictor and monitor of this serious metabolic disease. Unlike daily blood sugar tests, HbA1c reflects average glucose levels over two to three months, offering a more comprehensive picture of how well diabetes is being controlled.

This helps in making informed decisions about treatment adjustments and lifestyle changes. High HbA1c levels indicate poor blood sugar control, increasing the risk of diabetes-related complications such as cardiovascular disease, kidney damage (nephropathy), eye damage (retinopathy), nerve damage (neuropathy), and poor wound healing. These complications can have a significant impact on quality of life and overall health. Therefore, maintaining HbA1c levels within the recommended range is crucial for reducing the risk of these long-term effects. [5]

What factors can influence HbA1c values?

Several factors can influence HbA1c readings. Conditions like anemia or hemoglobinopathies can alter hemoglobin levels, affecting HbA1c accuracy. Changes in red blood cell lifespan due to recent blood loss, transfusion, or certain chronic conditions (e.g., kidney or liver disease) can skew results. Some medications impact glucose metabolism, thus influencing HbA1c. Racial and ethnic differences have been observed in HbA1c levels, requiring careful interpretation. Pregnancy also affects HbA1c, necessitating different evaluation standards for pregnant women. It’s important to consider these factors for accurate assessment of HbA1c results. [6]

What lifestyle modifications can be made to regulate HbA1c?

Chronic stress can raise blood glucose levels due to the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which can lead to higher HbA1c readings. Finding ways to mitigate this such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, mindfulness exercises, and adequate sleep may help. [7] Smoking can increase HbA1c levels independently of glucose concentration. [8] A higher BMI, often associated with increased fat mass, can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn may raise HbA1c levels. [9] Conversely, regular exercise improves insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, potentially lowering HbA1c. [10] These lifestyle factors, along with dietary habits, play a significant role in determining HbA1c values and overall metabolic health. [11]

If your A1C is elevated, Johns Hopkins Medicine [12] suggests:

  • Losing weight by leading a healthy lifestyle
  • Increasing fiber in your diet by choosing veggies, whole grains, and fruit
  • Regularly exercising – particularly, aerobic exercise and strength training
  • Quitting smoking

Several supplements may aid in lowering HbA1c levels. While the following may aid in lowering A1C, relying solely on supplements for glycemic control is not recommended.

  • Cinnamon [17]
  • Magnesium [18]
  • Chromium Picolinate [19]
  • Berberine [20]
  • Fiber (Metamucil or psyllium husk) [21]

These supplements show promise in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar levels and have been targets for therapeutic studies. However, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen, especially for individuals with diabetes or pre-diabetes, as these supplements may interact with other medications and may not be suitable for everyone.

Tracking HbA1c with SiPhox Health:

– At-home kit delivered to your home
– Fingerprick sample self-collection (low-pain, adjustable lancets)
– $295 one-time, $85 subscription
– Number of biomarkers included: 17 in the base panel (Thyroid+ and Hormone+ add-on panels available)
– Sleep and activity tracking: Included, 200 devices supported
– CGM tracking
– 2-5 business days after collection

Subscribe to SiPhox and start tracking your HbA1c + 16 other critical biomarkers as well as sleep, activity, and heart data all in one comprehensive dashboard.

Learn more about SiPhox Health testing here.