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Also known as Hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, Glycohemoglobin, Glycated hemoglobin and Glycosylated hemoglobin, this test helps determine if elevated glucose in the blood is an issue. Sugar (glucose) sticks, and when it's around for a long time, it's harder to get it off. In the body, sugar sticks too, particularly to proteins. The red blood cells that circulate in the body live for about 3 months before they die off. When sugar sticks to these cells, it gives doctors an idea of how much sugar is around for the preceding 3 months. In most labs, the normal range is 4 - 5.9%. In poorly controlled diabetes, its 8.0% or above, and in well controlled patients it's less than 7.0%. The benefits of measuring A1c is that is gives a more reasonable view of what's happening over the course of time (3 months), rather than what is happening at any particular moment.
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Diabetes Mellitus: A disease with increased blood glucose levels due to lack or ineffectiveness of insulin. Diabetes is found in two forms; insulin-dependent diabetes (juvenile-onset) and non-insulin-dependent (adult-onset). Symptoms include increased thirst; increased urination; weight loss in spite of increased appetite; fatigue; nausea; vomiting; frequent infections including bladder, vaginal, and skin; blurred vision; impotence in men; bad breath; cessation of menses; diminished skin fullness. Other symptoms include bleeding gums; ear noise/buzzing; diarrhea; depression; confusion.
Glucose: A sugar that is the simplest form of carbohydrate. It is commonly referred to as blood sugar. The body breaks down carbohydrates in foods into glucose, which serves as the primary fuel for the muscles and the brain.
Hemoglobin: The oxygen-carrying protein of the blood found in red blood cells.
Protein: Compounds composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen present in the body and in foods that form complex combinations of amino acids. Protein is essential for life and is used for growth and repair. Foods that supply the body with protein include animal products, grains, legumes, and vegetables. Proteins from animal sources contain the essential amino acids. Proteins are changed to amino acids in the body.
Red Blood Cell: Any of the hemoglobin-containing cells that carry oxygen to the tissues and are responsible for the red color of blood.