Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: New blood sugar measure

Heart Beat

New blood sugar measure

Controlling blood sugar is one way to combat the many complications of diabetes, one of which is heart disease. That's why people with diabetes are encouraged to check their blood sugar at least once a day. Home meters give an instant snapshot of milligrams of sugar per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). By contrast, the test that doctors use, which measures glycated hemoglobin A1C, offers a time-lapse look at blood sugar levels over several weeks. It is reported as a percentage, which isn't easily translated into mg/dL, the measurement most people with diabetes understand.

Now they'll tell the same story. The American Diabetes Association and other diabetes organizations are setting a standard for measuring glycated hemoglobin A1C. Results of this blood test will be reported both as a percentage and as mg/dL. The latter number represents the average blood sugar level over the preceding three months. This can help people understand how well they are handling their diabetes over the long run.

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