February 26, 2003 at 10:15 PM CST - Updated June 21 at 7:25 AM
A nationwide effort is underway by diabetes groups to get patients and doctors to understand and regularly check a certain blood value.
It's called hemoglobin A1C, and it's getting easier for patients to check for i
t. Now, patients can check for A1C levels at home or in their doctor's office...in just a few minutes.
Greg McCarthy should be a poster child for how to attack diabetes. "Diabetes is all about control. I exercise frequently, I eat very carefully. But I'm scared of all the old tales about going blind, losing your limbs."
Those are no tales, they're truths. Diabetes can be a brutal disease, causing problems throughout the body. That's why all diabetics should know about, and follow, their hemoglobin A1C value. It's a long term look at blood sugar, determined from levels over the past 3 months.
Think of the hemoglobin A1C as sort of the overall grade for a diabetic. But instead, the higher the number the worse the grade. In other words, the higher the hemoglobin A1C, the more likely the patient is to develop complications of diabetes, and even have a higher risk of dying.
Problems like blindness, cardiovascular disease, and nerve problems. But because the test has until now required a blood sample that's sent to the lab, and a two day delay, the impact of the results are lost.
Dr. Elise Brett, an endocrinologist says, "It's best to review the A1C results at the same time as the finger sticks because neither the A1C or the fingtersticks tell the whole story. They need to be used in conjunction with one another." Brett uses this quick and inexpensive A1C test instead. For less than ten dollars, it tells you the hemoglobin A1C in less than ten minutes. For Greg, his test result is 6.5, just what he was hoping to hear.
The current recommendation is to keep that A1C number at or below 6.5. The average in United States is 8.5.