By Roslyn A Douglas, MA
Founder of Central Health-Grenada
One of the most effective tests to determine how effectively a diabetic is managing his or her glucose level is the A1C test. According to the US National Diabetes Education Program’s (NDEP) website, “The A1C is a lab test that measures your average blood sugar level over the last 2 to 3 months. It shows whether your blood sugar stayed close to your target range most of the time, or was too high or too low.”
In order for us to have energy to move about our daily lives, our bodies turn most of the food we eat into glucose or in layman’s terms — sugar. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin. This insulin helps the glucose or sugar to get into all parts of human body. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or cannot use its own insulin as well as it should.
When a patient is diagnosed with diabetes their doctor will decide the best treatment plan for them; this may include medication, insulin or both to help control their irregular sugar levels. In most instances they will encourage changes to eating habits and to increase exercise. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause serious health complication such as, chronic kidney disease (CKD), eye disease (retinopathy), nerve damage, affecting for example, the hands, feet and penis. Therefore it is imperative that diabetics check their glucose numbers daily through self-testing (glucometer) and also consider the NDEP’s recommendation that diabetics have an A1C test at least twice a year.
The A1C test is also recommended for pre-diabetics. A pre-diabetic is a person whose blood glucose reading is high but not high enough to be classified as a diabetic. According to the current President of the Grenada Diabetes Association (GDA) Registered Nurse, Rosalind Alexis, a person at risk for developing diabetes could benefit from taking the A1C test, “When you have an A1C, perhaps between 5 and 6.5 then you know it is time for you do your exercise and follow-up with your diet and lower the risk of you developing the condition. So it is also beneficial for a person who is not diabetic.”
Regarding diabetics, Nurse Alexis stated that the A1C is highly recommended. “It is very good and we recommend it highly, because persons who might just depend on going to the clinic and testing the blood sugar at a given period — perhaps they test it when they didn’t eat a lot and you get a low blood sugar reading. But the A1C will give you exactly what is happening with your blood. The A1C will tell you what your blood sugar is over a three-month period and it should not go over seven.”
The Grenada Diabetes Association (GDA), under the leadership of Nurse Alexis, operates a resource centre within the St John’s Ambulance Brigade Building at Tanteen, St George. Its hours of operation are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm and they offer blood sugar/glucose testing, blood pressure screening, weight and body mass index evaluation, diabetic counseling, distribute free materials on how diabetics can manage/control their disease, and while test kits are available, the A1C test.