Hi, this is Jenny. Diabetes is a disease that affects how well your body converts glucose, or sugar from food into energy your cells can use. It affects 9.4% of Americans and 7.3% of Canadians each year, and many more people go for years without even realizing that they have the disease. However, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, there is more to consider than just how much (or how little) sugar to consume daily. Diabetes can lead to other health complications if not monitored regularly, which is why it’s important to ask your doctor about these 3 blood tests for best diabetes care.
3 blood tests for diabetes care:
1. eGFR or estimated glomerular filtration rate blood test
eFGR stands for estimated glomerular filtration rate. Basically, it is the rate of blood flow through your kidneys. Healthy kidneys filter about 200 quarts of blood per day, and an eGFR test can tell you how well your kidneys are working right now.
What does it measure?
The eGFR measures creatinine, a waste product that is produced by your muscles and filtered by your kidneys. As there is no direct way to measure the rate of blood flow through your kidneys, health care providers analyze creatinine levels in the bloodstream to determine how well your kidneys are doing their job.
For perspective, healthy kidneys have an eGFR of 60 or higher, although normal GFR varies by factors such as age.
Within this range, your kidneys efficiently filter creatinine and release it through your urine. However, an eGFR below 60 means that your kidneys aren’t filtering enough creatinine from your system and may have damage.
Why is it important?
The CDC estimates that 1 in 3 people with diabetes has chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease is a progressive disease that eventually leads to kidney failure.
Most people who have chronic kidney disease don’t even know it until they reach the later stages or end stage renal disease. A sad reality.
Diabetes is both a risk factor for and a complication of chronic kidney disease. So, if you have diabetes, it’s important to know your eGFR and to take steps to protect your kidney health like eating a kidney-friendly diet, maintaining hydration, and doing regular exercise.
2. Hemoglobin A1c blood test for diabetes care
The hemoglobin A1c test is also known as the glycosylated hemoglobin test. It is used to both diagnose diabetes and monitor how well you are managing the condition.
The A1c test for diabetes care involves drawing blood either through a vial or a pinprick on your finger. But don’t confuse it with the daily blood glucose test that diabetics do to monitor glucose levels.
What does it measure?
The A1c test measures your average blood sugar level over the last 3 months. This test is different from the daily glucose test because what your health care provider is actually measuring is how much of your red blood cells (hemoglobin) have a sugar coating over the hemoglobin.
For most people, an A1c of less than 7% is the sweet spot. Anything higher and you may be at risk of developing diabetes or other complications if you already have diabetes.
Diabetes care: Why is the A1c test important?
People with diabetes are at risk for both short-term and long-term complications relating to blood sugar levels. Below is a summary of potential issues.
Short-term complications include:
- Hypoglycemia – An overabundance of insulin in the bloodstream, which can sometimes lead to unconsciousness and, in rare cases, diabetic coma.
- Diabetic ketoacidosis – Caused by not having enough insulin in the bloodstream, this condition can lead to a build-up of ketones in your body.
Long-term problems include:
- Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage – The result of consistently high blood sugar levels over time, this complication usually affects the legs and feet.
- Eyesight issues, or diabetic retinopathy – High blood sugar can also damage the blood vessels in the back of the eyes, resulting in blurred vision and even increasing the risk of developing glaucoma.
- Kidney disease and, eventually, end stage renal disease (ESRD) – Consistently high blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys, and individuals with a family history of kidney disease are at heightened risk.
3. Lipid panel or lipid profile
Lipids are fats that store energy. They are also necessary for the proper functioning of your cells.
Furthermore, lipids are actually a key component in cell structure. They enter your body from the food you eat in many forms, from fats to carbohydrates and vitamins A, D, E and K.
What does it measure?
A lipid panel or lipid profile is a blood test for 3 different things. It measures the amount of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) in your bloodstream.
People with diabetes are more susceptible to lipid abnormalities. Specifically, high levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL, also known as the “good cholesterol.”
Why is the lipid profile test important?
Coronary artery disease is one of the main causes of death for people with diabetes, especially those suffering from type 2 diabetes. Hyperlipidemia, a condition where a person has abnormally high concentrations of lipids, is a common complication of diabetes.
An annual lipid screening could be what your doctor recommends for you, even if you’re good about keeping your glucose levels in check. That’s because managing your glucose levels can lower your lipid profile, but it won’t normalize lipid abnormalities.
The bottom line on diabetes care
Living with diabetes can be complex but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a full life. Don’t wait until your yearly exam to ask your healthcare provider about these three blood tests if you are diabetic. The sooner the better for overall diabetes care!
About today’s writer
Jenny Hart is a health and wellness writer with a passion for travel, cycling, and books. Her focus is topics relating to the effects of aging on health and she has a strong interest in research that can help people age better. When she isn’t writing or traveling, she’s traversing NYC with her two dogs Poochie and Ramone.