Medical care providers and public health officials are stepping up efforts to identify patients with prediabetes, typically defined as blood sugar higher than is normal but not yet in the diabetes range.  The National Institutes of Health estimates that as many as 79 million Americans age 20 or older—roughly one in three adults—have prediabetes.  That figure dwarfs the 26 million Americans who have Type 2 diabetes, including seven million people believed to have the disease but don’t know it.


Federal health officials and diabetes experts are encouraging doctors to make more use of a test called A1c to diagnose prediabetes or diabetes.  A1c, or hbA1c (hemoglobin A1c, or glycosylated hemoglobin), long used to monitor patients who already have diabetes, is more convenient for patients. Unlike standard blood sugar tests, it doesn’t require the patient to fast or wait for 2 hours after drinking a sugary drink.  The A1c test measures average blood sugar levels over 3 months, while standard blood sugar tests measure it only at the time of the exam.  A1c measures the percentage of glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream; a reading of 5.7% to 6.4% is considered prediabetes, while greater than 6.4% is diabetes. 


People with prediabetes may have no symptoms at all, but others may experience problems associated with diabetes, like blurred vision, unusual thirst or frequent urination.  Catching the problem early using the A1c test may help individuals avoid the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.  The next time you see your doctor, request this blood test.  Early identification and intervention with lifestyle change can go a long way toward keeping you healthy.  If your A1c is elevated, see your Registered Dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator for information about getting your blood sugar under control.


Who Should Get Checked?

  • Overweight and age 45 or older
  • Adults age 45 with other risk factors, including excess weight, high blood pressure, a family history of diabetes or belonging to an ethnic group at risk for diabetes.
  • Adults of normal weight over age 45 if recommended for a test by their doctor 


Source: Laura Landro, and The Wall Street Journal