February is Heart Health Month! Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the United States – so if you ever needed an excuse to be proactive about your heart health, now’s the perfect time.
Over the previous weeks of February, we took a close look at several at-home lab tests that can give you a better picture of your heart health. This week, we’re putting a spotlight on the HbA1c Test.
Too much blood sugar can contribute to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, which can eventually restrict the flow of blood to your body’s vital organs (like the brain). Heart disease can occur as a result – as well as heart attack or stroke. As such, high blood sugar is a major risk factor for heart disease.
So is your blood sugar climbing to heart-harming levels? You can find out with the Everlywell at-home HbA1c test kit. By taking this test, you can easily check your average blood sugar levels from the past 90-120 days.
Read on to discover more about HbA1c – and how blood sugar levels affect your risk of heart disease.
Your HbA1c (or just A1c) level shows your average blood sugar level from the previous 3 months or so.
An HbA1c test measures the percentage of the hemoglobin in your red blood cells that are covered in sugar from your bloodstream – giving you a good idea of your average blood sugar level. (Hemoglobin is a type of protein in your red blood cells.)
An HbA1c test measures the percentage of the hemoglobin in your red blood cells that are covered in sugar from your bloodstream.
This way of measuring blood sugar is the key difference between an HbA1c test and a blood glucose meter (commonly called a glucometer). A blood glucose meter tells you what your blood sugar levels are like at the specific moment you take the measurement – in milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL.
However, blood sugar levels can change quite a lot throughout the day in response to meals you eat and your physical activity. Since an HbA1c test gives you a 90-day average of your blood sugar, it’s often much more useful for tracking long-term changes and trends in your blood sugar levels.
If one of your first-degree relatives – such as a parent or sibling – has a history of diabetes, you’re more likely to have high HbA1c levels (even if you yourself do not have diabetes) .
So if diabetes runs in the family, consider monitoring your HbA1c levels on a regular basis – before high blood sugar has a chance to sneak up on you and potentially harm your heart health.
Research shows that higher HbA1c levels are generally linked with a higher risk of heart disease. A study published in 2017 found that the most ideal HbA1c level for people without diabetes is in the 5.0% to 6.0% range . Beyond 6.0%, the risk of death from heart disease rises significantly. That same study discovered that individuals with diabetes face a much greater risk of death from heart disease if their HbA1c levels reach past 8.0%.
Research shows that higher HbA1c levels are generally linked with a higher risk of heart disease.
(Note that these numbers don’t apply to everyone, so discuss your HbA1c level with your healthcare provider before choosing an HbA1c target that’s right for you.)
You should check your HbA1c levels more frequently if you have diabetes or prediabetes (a blood sugar level that is almost – but not quite – in the diabetic range).
The exact guidelines depend on how well-controlled your blood sugar level is, as well as other factors like pregnancy.
It’s important to remember that it will take at least 90 days for your red blood cells to turn over and for you to see any positive changes in your HbA1c from diet or lifestyle changes (or medication changes that your doctor may make).
Keep these points in mind if you’d like to maintain a healthy blood sugar level:
It’s easy to stay on top of your blood sugar numbers with EverlyWell’s at-home HbA1c kit. Everything you need for taking the test is included in the kit, including a prepaid shipping label for mailing your blood sample to the lab. And you can view your results – on a secure online platform – just days after the lab receives your sample.
So if you want to be proactive about your heart health, try the HbA1c kit – a convenient, practical way to test your blood sugar levels.