How are Non Fasting Blood Sugar Levels Tested?

The most commonly known form of glucose testing is performed using a fasting blood sugar screen, which is ideally performed on a yearly basis. While this blood test is important, there are other methods that use alternative methods used to confirm the presence of diabetes and diagnose elevated blood sugar levels at home. For individuals who are asymptomatic or are diagnosed as being diabetic, these non-fasting blood sugar tests can be life saving.

What is a Hemoglobin A1c Test?

Healthcare providers may include a hemoglobin A1c test in an annual physical, or order one when fasting blood sugar (FBS) levels are determined to be abnormal. Compared to the FBS, this blood draw does not require an individual to fast before testing.

The results of this test reveal the ratio of glucose molecules to hemoglobin (oxygen carrying particles), and measures glycated hemoglobin molecules. When provided with the results, they can be interpreted by guidelines set by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and include the following ranges:

  • Normal – between 4 and 5.6%
  • Pre-diabetes – between 5.7 and 6.4%
  • Diabetic – any range including 6.5% and above

Compared to blood screen that includes a fasting blood sugar, this test can give healthcare providers a greater overview of an individual’s level of health. Glycated hemoglobin levels do not provide a 24 hour snapshot of glucose levels like the FBS, instead they show the average sugar levels experienced over a period of 2 to 3 months. This can help physicians confirm the presence of a condition that is routinely causing high blood sugar levels, and help determine the best treatment options.

The Role of Routine Home Glucose Testing

Once an individual has been diagnosed with diabetes, routine testing of non-fasting blood sugar levels should be performed at various points during the day. The goal of this routine testing is to determine if sugar levels have become elevated during the morning, after meals or before bed. In type 1 diabetics, this condition is corrected through the use of insulin injected via syringe, pre-measured pen or insulin pump. Type 2 diabetics manage this condition as instructed by their healthcare provider, because treatment options vary in these cases – and use prescribed oral medication or combination prescription and injection.

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Non-fasting blood sugar tests should increase in frequency when there has been a change in medication type or dosage. New insulin types and/or anti-diabetic medications can have limited impact on high blood sugar depending on the individual, decrease glucose too rapidly (resulting in hypoglycemia), or cause irregular highs and lows. A temporary increase in home testing can detect any problems in the early stages and before they become life threatening.

See this post for more on lowering high blood sugar if your tests are higher than you’d like.

The A1c is an invaluable blood screen used by healthcare providers to confirm the presences of diabetes or indicate a pre-diabetic condition. This diagnosis can be life altering, especially if an individual’s symptoms are benign or if they are asymptomatic. Also, non-fasting blood sugar tests are an essential part of diabetes management and allow for the early detection of high glucose levels. When used together, physicians and diagnosed individuals can easily manage diabetes – leading to a happier, higher quality lifestyle.

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