Reviewed By: Dr. Kurt Kloss, MD
Last Reviewed Date: Apr 03, 2018
Last Modified Date: Apr 03, 2018
Published Date: Apr 03, 2018
Hemoglobin A1c Blood Test Useful to Predict Risk of Cardiovascular Disease (Aug 3, 2011)
Two new studies suggests that a test traditionally used to measure blood sugar levels in diabetics can be useful in predicting the risk of heart disease. The hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)
blood test measures average sugar levels over a period of months in contrast to a standard Glucose
blood test that measures blood sugar levels as a specific point in time (see diabetes testing
The HbA1c gives a better measurement of average glucose (sugar) levels in your body, a critical measurement for individuals with diabetes and anyone concerned about their risk of diabetes. Historically patient with diabetes are believed to be at high risk for cardiovascular disease. These patients are often aggressively treated with cholesterol lowing treatments, such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, to address this increased risk. Treatment such as these should only undertaken when the risk factors merit the potential complications of the treatment. The finding of these recent studies suggests that some patients with diabetes may not be at such increased risk.
By testing diabetic patient with a combination of an HbA1c blood test with cholesterol measurements (via a Lipid Profile
) and a C-reactive protein researchers concluded that were able to predict cardiac risk more accurately. The studies collected data on long term risk of diabetic patients and concluded that over 70% of women in the study had a sub 20% risk of cardiac disease while only 25% of the men in the study showed a reduced level of risk below 20%. The difference between the risk of men and women can potentially be due to the general increased of cardiovascular disease in men and the delay risk associated with women as they age but this is only accounts for a partial explanation of the findings. As is typical with these types of studies further research is needed to verify these conclusions.
However, the findings strongly suggest that the hemoglobin A1c may also be used as a risk indicator of cardiovascular disease in patients both with and without diabetes. When combining this test with other cardiac tests such as a Lipid Profile and a high sensitivity cardiac C-reactive protein
you can better assess you individual risk of heart disease (see heart and cholesterol testing
). Further, studies such as these illustrate the importance of measuring related metrics to assess health risks over a long-term period and the need for periodic laboratory blood testing to measure and interpret changes going on in your body.