The major contribution that high school students make to our nation’s blood supply is significantly under appreciated. Some 20% of the blood that is transfused in our country is donated by teenagers. We are indebted to these altruistic students and to the schools hosting blood drives for the needs of patients in our community.
At Carter BloodCare, we feel we can go beyond our heartfelt “thanks” to students. There is compelling evidence that the risk for heart disease and diabetes, starting in the young, is increasing dramatically. With this in mind, students donating blood at Carter BloodCare have, in addition to the tests mandated by the FDA, a total cholesterol measurement, their blood pressure taken and during the fall 2016 school semester a hemoglobin A1C determination (blood sugar). We encourage them to review their results on the blood center’s website after donating. For some, this may be their first early warning sign of a future health risk.
The A1C test is a blood test that provides information about a person’s average levels of blood glucose (also called blood sugar) over the past three months. This test does not require fasting or any preparation aside from the typical pre-donation prep. The A1C test is sometimes called the hemoglobin A1C, HbA1c, or glycohemoglobin test.
But why is it important? There is currently a global epidemic of type 2 diabetes, and the prevalence in all age groups is estimated to increase from 2.8 percent in 2000 to 4.4 percent in 2030. There are many complications for those living with diabetes, most notably the increased risk of heart disease and stroke. With correct treatment and lifestyle changes, many diabetics are able to prevent or delay the onset of complications, and with tests like A1C, we can give our young donors a reading of their health and help those living with the disease take action.
As with any medical test, we all try to achieve certain “ideal” results. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a normal or ideal A1C reading is below 5.7 percent. An A1C of 5.7 to 6.4 percent is in the pre-diabetes range and suggests an increased risk for related complications. An A1C of 6.5 percent or greater is considered in the diabetes range. However, a diagnosis can only be made by a physician and after confirmatory tests.
For those trying to lower their A1C levels, the National Institutes of Health’s clinical trial, the Diabetes Prevention Program, found that for people with pre-diabetes, modest lifestyle changes led to weight loss of 5 to 7 percent in participants and can reduce the risk of the disease by 58 percent in individuals at high risk. Many American diets exceed the recommended number of calories per day and lack the recommended number of nutrients, but healthy eating is essential for both children and adults in order to curb obesity and avoid type 2 diabetes and its many related issues.
Although we do everything in our power to help people stay on top of their health, Carter BloodCare can only provide the A1C test when funding is available from local foundations or corporations. The funding provided by Coca-Cola and JP Morgan (Leo Potishman Foundation) makes it possible for us to be there for our community on a consistent basis.
To learn more about this test and the risk of diabetes, click here. If you have any questions about your health screening results, please call Donor Notification at 1-888- 480-8200.