“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers”
Popularly attributed to Plato – philosopher and mathematician from Classical Greece
All well and good – but when it comes to managing your diabetes, numbers are important alongside knowledge about the condition. Interpreting the different numbers can be confusing, as shown by the number of calls we receive on the Abbott Diabetes Care UK Careline about this issue. To help you get to grips with this, we’ve highlighted some of the main areas of confusion below together with links to useful tools which may help:
New HbA1c measurement
From 1st October 2011 results for the HbA1c test have been stated in millimoles per mole (mmol/mol). This follows the recommendation by the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry (IFCC) to ensure worldwide consistency. The results were previously given as a percentage (%). As a transition measure to assist both healthcare professionals and patients to become accustomed to the new format, results were given in both units of measure from 1st June 2009 until 1st October 2011 as explained above. (Your healthcare provider may still tell you the number in percentage terms, if that’s what you’re used to.)
When you’re used to receiving a result in a particular way, you can immediately visualise how well (or perhaps not so well) you are managing your diabetes. The tighter your blood glucose control, the lower your chance of developing complications. It is important any changes do not adversely affect the way you and your healthcare professional agree to manage your condition and treatment.
To help with this transition from percentage mmol/mol, view our useful conversion chart.
Blood glucose monitoring versus HbA1c test
Some people get confused between these two very different tests. They measure blood glucose levels over different periods of time and the results are given in different units.So it would be like trying to compare apples with oranges, or whatever other fruit or vegetable you like! Both have their place in managing your diabetes, but still can confuse patients.
The test you do at home on your FreeStyle Meter measures your blood glucose level at one particular point in time - especially helpful if you feel you may be having a hypo or if you need to calculate an insulin dose. This result is in millimoles per litre (mmol/L). On the other hand, the HbA1c test measures your average blood glucose levels over the past 2–3 months and is now given in millimoles per mole (mmol/mol). It must be emphasised the HbA1c result is only an average and has its place in showing overall control of your diabetes - but it cannot show if you’ve had either hypos or hypers within the time period.
Unit of measurement in UK versus other countries
If you’re travelling abroad or happen to be on holiday in the UK visiting from another country and find yourself needing to use a different blood glucose meter – perhaps you’ve misplaced your own, or it’s stopped working for some reason, it may display your blood glucose result in a different unit of measurement than you’re used to seeing.This can make it difficult if you need to correct an insulin dose for example.
The unit of measurement in the UK for blood glucose monitoring systems is millimoles per litre (mmol/L) as explained above, whereas in the USA and most European countries it is milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL). You may encounter mg/dL on diabetes social media forums if not in your travels.
Here is a helpful calculator from Diabetes.co.uk you can use to convert a reading on your UK blood glucose meter into mg/dL or indeed vice versa: http://www.diabetes.co.uk/blood-sugar-converter.html
Know where you stand with your numbers and make your diabetes care regime count!