Friday, December 10, 2010

Myth: I test my blood sugar daily using a blood glucose meter, so I do not need the hemoglobin A1c test.

diabetes meter, finger-stick test
Answer: Busted!

It is best to get both tests. The results of each test will tell you and your health care provider whether your blood sugar is under control. Talk to your health care provider about how often you need each test.

The hemoglobin A1c test is a simple lab test that shows the average amount of sugar that has been in your blood over the last three months. Your health care provider does the test by taking a small sample of your blood and sending it to a lab.

The hemoglobin A1c goal for people with diabetes is less than seven percent. If your test result is less than seven percent, your treatment plan is probably working and it is likely that your blood sugar is under good control. On the other hand, if your test is greater than eight percent, it means you have a greater chance of getting eye disease, kidney disease or nerve damage. If your test result is this high, you may need to work with your health care provider to change your treatment plan.

Finger-stick tests are usually done before meals and/or at bedtime. A finger-stick test is a simple test you can do using a blood glucose meter to check changes in your own blood sugar. The finger-stick test tells you what your blood sugar is at the time you test. Self-testing helps you see how food, physical activity and diabetes medicine affect your blood sugar. Ideal goals for most people with diabetes when self-testing using a blood glucose meter are: 80-120 mg/dl before meals and 100-140 mg/dl at bedtime.

It is recommended that diabetics receive a hemoglobin A1c test at least two times a year. You may consider getting the test more often if your blood sugar stays too high or if your health care provider makes any changes in your treatment plan. Your blood sugar goals may be different from these ideal goals. Ask your health care provider what goals are best for you.

For more nutrition and health information, visit the MissouriFamilies website.

Contributor: Maude Harris, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573.545.3516

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