The A1c blood test can provide you with your average blood sugar level over the last three months. This test is commonly used to help people with diabetes manage their conditions. However, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it’s possible for some people to have a high A1c without being diagnosed as diabetic.
What is a dangerous level of A1c, and can you have a high A1c and not be diabetic? If you learn that your A1c is far higher than it should be, it helps to know more about this diabetes marker and how it can affect you if you don’t have diabetes.
What is A1c and an A1c test?
The NIHdefines hemoglobin A1c as a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Blood sugar binds to hemoglobin in the blood cells. If your blood sugar level is high, a large amount of it will attach to hemoglobin, which is why this test is commonly used to check and manage diabetes.
The A1c test, also known as a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test, measures the amount of blood sugar that is attached to hemoglobin. According to the NIH, this diabetes test measures average blood sugar levels over the last three months because three months is the average lifespan of a red blood cell. High HbA1c levels usually indicate that you have diabetes or that you have prediabetes that is close to progressing into diabetes.
What if your test says you have a higher level of A1c, but you do not have diabetes?
High A1c levels do not always necessarily mean that you have diabetes. The NIH reports that high A1c causes include blood disorders like anemia, as well as liver disease, kidney failure, and sickle cell disease.
If your A1c levels are high, your doctor may perform a blood glucose test to diagnose or rule out diabetes. If you do not have diabetes, your doctor may order another type of lab test to identify the root cause of high A1c.
Ways to have higher A1c levels
The NIH states there are several potential causes of elevated HbA1c without diabetes. Knowing more about these conditions can help you determine whether you may be at risk and need treatment.
Anemia is a condition in which your blood is unable to carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body. Anemia is usually caused by iron deficiency, as iron is needed to make hemoglobin, reports the NIH. Next to diabetes, anemia is one of the top causes of high A1c.
Kidney disease and disorders
Kidney problems usually occur when the kidneys become damaged and can no longer filter blood properly. This can cause high levels of sugar to build up in the bloodstream and contribute to high A1c, according to the NIH.
Triglycerides are a type of fat in your body that comes from foods such as butter and oils. According to the NIH, high triglycerides can affect your heart and blood health to cause elevated H1c.
The NIH states that your spleen is partly responsible for fighting infection, balancing body fluids, and destroying old and damaged blood cells. A spleen disorder can impair your body’s ability to destroy old blood cells, which can eventually lead to high A1c.
The thyroid is a small gland shaped like a butterfly that is located at the base on the front of your neck. Your thyroid is responsible for making a series of hormones that control your metabolism. According to a 2010 study published in Diabetes Care, thyroid disorders and abnormal thyroid levels can lead to elevated A1c in people who do not have diabetes.
Large doses of aspirin, HIV medications, and chronic use of opioids may contribute to elevated A1c in people with diabetes, according to a 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.
You may have high A1c levels if you recently had a blood transfusion. According to a 2017 study in PloS One, blood that comes from a donor could result in high or lower A1c and affect your A1c readings.
Ethnicity and background
Certain ethnic groups may have higher A1c levels than others. The NIH reports it is currently conducting clinical trials to determine why certain racial and ethnic groups may be predisposed to high A1c.
How to lower A1c levels
If you have high A1c levels, the NIH suggests that it’s possible to reduce your levels of this protein naturally through a series of healthy lifestyle behaviors.
According to the NIH, foods that are high in sugars and unhealthy fats may lead to a higher blood sugar level and A1c reading. Modify your diet to include more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, and whole grains. Eat fewer carbohydrates, including breads, candy, and ice cream. According to the Utah Department of Health, a diet high in carbohydrates will cause sugar to build up in the bloodstream at a high rate.
Exercise naturally reduces A1c by moving sugar from your bloodstream and into your muscles. The NIH recommends that you start exercising regularly on most days a week, even if you start out small by walking for 15 minutes a day. Gradually increase your activity level week by week, and stick to doing activities you truly enjoy, such as dancing, gardening, and yoga.
An overall healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk for most illnesses and diseases, including diabetes, according to data from the NIH. Habits like, watching less television and spending more time outdoors in the sun being active, may help contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Reducing your alcohol intake and stopping smoking, while eating a higher amount of healthy foods, are also recommended by the NIH. Other important habits may include, getting plenty of quality sleep, and spending more time with positive, like-minded people who make you feel good about yourself.
What causes high A1c?
High A1c is caused by having an elevated blood sugar level over a period of three months. According to the NIH, the most common high A1c causes and risk factors include diabetes, anemia, lack of exercise, and obesity.
What can falsely elevate A1c?
The NIH reports that several factors can falsely elevate your A1c. These factors include recent blood loss, sickle cell disease, blood transfusion, and iron deficiency.
What does A1c stand for?
A1c stands for glycated hemoglobin, or hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), according to the NIH.
What is a good A1c for a non-diabetic?
A normal A1c reading is below 5.7%, while an A1c reading for prediabetes ranges between 5.7% and 6.4%, reports the NIH.
Where can I get an A1c lab test?
A1c lab tests are widely available and easy to find when you use Solv. Solv can give you a list of high-quality diabetes test providers in your area that offer the A1c test. Use Solv to access convenient and hassle-free health care, and make a same-day appointment for an A1c test at an urgent care clinic in your area.
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- Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) Test (September 15, 2021)
- The A1C Test & Diabetes (April 2018)
- Anemia (October 6, 2021)
- High Blood Triglycerides
- Spleen Diseases (October 19, 2021)
- Effects of Thyroid Hormone on A1C and Glycated Albumin Levels in Non-diabetic Subjects With Overt Hypothyroidism (December 2010)
- Drugs affecting HbA1c levels (August 2012)
- Whole Blood Donation Affects the Interpretation of Hemoglobin A1c (January 24, 2021)
- How Can You Lower Your A1C To a Healthy Number?