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What is HbA1c?

HbA1c is a test used to identify the concentration of glucose (sugar) in the blood. The test gives an average reading of glucose levels over a duration of 2-3 months. The HbA1c test shows how well type II diabetes is being controlled or if an individual is at risk of developing the disease.[1]

What role does HbA1c have in the body?

HbA1c is formed from haemoglobin and glucose. The processing of sugar in the body is such that glucose found in the bloodstream is attached to haemoglobin and forms glycated haemoglobin or HbA1c. Unlike a blood glucose test, the HbA1c test shows a longer-term trend associated with blood sugar levels. Therefore, providing an average of how high blood glucose levels have been over a prolonged period.

The HbA1c test is a good indicator for pre-diabetes. It is also used by individuals who have already developed type II diabetes to see how well they are controlling their blood glucose levels.[2]

How does HbA1c affect my wellbeing?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder and can be classified as type 1 or type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease which is predominantly diagnosed in childhood. Insulin is required by the body to regulate blood glucose levels. However, if an individual has type 1 diabetes then they are unable to produce enough insulin to control their blood sugar levels.[3]

How can I improve my result?

Lifestyle choices play a key role in our predisposition to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Those who are already overweight or lead a sedentary lifestyle are most at risk.

The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to be effective in preventing type 2 diabetes. The diet is characterised by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, nuts, olive oil and grains as well as a moderate consumption of fish and wine. The Mediterranean Diet promotes a low intake of processed and red meat as well as whole-fat dairy products such as milk and cheese.[4]

Physical activity is thought to be beneficial in controlling blood sugar levels and promoting weight loss in type 2 diabetes patients. Some studies have found that exercise can reduce HbA1c levels enough to prevent diabetic complications.[5]

Regular exercise can also help to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. You should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, but it may be necessary to participate in more to keep the risk low.[6]

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[1] Diabetes Digital Media LTD. (2018). HbA1c Test for Diabetes. Available at:

[2] Young Jeon, J., Ko, S, H and Kwon, H, S. (2013). Prevalence of Diabetes and Prediabetes According to Fasting Plasma Glucose and HbA1c. Diabetes and Metabolism Journal: 37, pp 349-357

[3] Diabetes Digital Media LTD. (2018). Type 1 Diabetes. Available at:

[4] Salas-Salvadó, J., Bulló, M., Babio, N et al. (2011). Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes with the Mediterranean Diet: Results of the PREDIMED-Resu Nutrition Intervention Randomized Trial. Diabetes Care: 34(1), pp 14-19.

[5] Boulé, N, G., Haddad, E., Kenny, G, P., Wells, G, A and Sigal, R, J. (2007). Effects of Exercise on Glycemic Control and Body Mass in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Meta-Analysis of Controlled Clinical Trials. JAMA: 286(10), pp 1218-1227.

[6] Gill, J, M and Cooper, A, R. (2008). Physical Activity and Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. Sports Med: 38 (10), pp 807-824.

[7] Carson, A, P., Fox, C, S., McGuire, D, K., Levitan, E, B., Laclaustra, M., Mann, D, M and Muntner, P. (2010). Low Hemoglobin A1c and Risk of All-Cause Mortality Among US Adults Without Diabetes. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes: 3(6), pp 661-667.

Medically reviewed

This information has been medically reviewed by Dr Nicola Keay.

Nicola has extensive clinical and research experience in the fields of endocrinology and sport and exercise medicine. Nicky is a member of the Royal College of Physicians, Honorary Fellow in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Durham University and former Research Fellow at St. Thomas’ Hospital.

Nicky Keay
Dr Nicola Keay

BA, MA (Cantab), MB, BChir, MRCP.​

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