- HbA1c is a blood test that is used to help diagnose type 2 diabetes and monitor blood glucose control in people who have diabetes.
- People with diabetes are advised to have this test every 3 to 6 months.
- No preparation is needed for this test.
- You should discuss your results with your doctor to see what the test results mean in your situation.
What is an HbA1c test?
HbA1c is a blood test that is used to diagnose type 2 diabetes. It is also used to monitor blood glucose control in people with diabetes.
HbA1c is short for glycated haemoglobin. The test is also sometimes called haemoglobin A1c.
Haemoglobin (Hb) is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen through your body. HbA1c refers to glucose and haemoglobin joined together (the haemoglobin is ‘glycated’). The amount of HbA1c formed is directly related to the amount of glucose in your blood.
Red blood cells live for an average of 120 days, so HbA1c gives an indication of how much sugar there has been in your blood over the past few months. It’s different to a blood glucose test, which measures how much sugar is in the blood at that moment.
Why would I need an HbA1c test?
If you are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, your doctor may recommend this test to check if you have diabetes. The HbA1c test may also be done if you have symptoms of type 2 diabetes, to confirm a diagnosis.
For people with diabetes, the test is used to indicate how well your diabetes has been controlled over the last few months. People with diabetes are advised to have this test every 3 months. This can be less frequent if your blood sugar levels are well controlled.
Monitoring HbA1c in people with diabetes is important. That’s because the higher your HbA1c, the greater your risk of developing diabetes complications such as:
- diabetic retinopathy
- diabetic kidney disease
- diabetic neuropathy
How to prepare for an HbA1c test
No preparation is needed for this blood test.
Understanding your results
It’s important to discuss your test results with your doctor to see what they mean in your situation.
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Diagnosis of diabetes
A diagnosis of diabetes can be made if your HbA1c result is 6.5% (48 mmol/mol) or more. Sometimes the test needs to be repeated to confirm the result.
If your HbA1c level is lower than this, you might need other tests to check whether you have diabetes or not.
If you have diabetes, the recommended general HbA1c target is 7% (53 mmol/mol) or less.
Your HbA1c target will depend on several factors, such as:
- the type of diabetes you have
- how long you have had diabetes
- your health in general
If your HbA1c result is higher than your target range, your doctor may consider changing your treatment or monitoring your blood sugars more closely.
What can affect my result?
Some medical conditions can alter HbA1c results, including:
Talk to your doctor about your results and what they mean for you.
HbA1c test explanation video
Video provided by Pathology Tests Explained
Resources and support
About HbA1c testing
Visit the Pathology Tests Explained website for more information about HbA1c testing.
You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
About blood testing
See our ‘Guide to blood testing’ to learn more about blood tests in general with information such as:
- what happens during a blood test
- the accuracy of your blood test results
- the cost of your blood tests
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Last reviewed: December 2022