What are the most common lab tests ordered when you have diabetes?

These are foundational tests you’ll see ordered most often.  They are all performed with a simple blood draw.

HbA1c (aka hemoglobin A1c or A1c)

What is it? Your HbA1c estimates your average blood sugar over the past two to three months.  Red blood cells have a protein called hemoglobin that attracts sugar molecules.  When your blood sugar is higher, more sugar will stick to these cells.

Frequency: After setting blood sugar targets with your care team, you’ll likely have your A1c checked every three months, or at least twice a year, to ensure you are reaching your target.

Ranges: The general recommendation for people with diabetes is an A1c target of 7% or less, but your care team will help create a target specific for you.

What does your result tell you?  Your A1c helps you and your team manage your diabetes. If it comes back above your target, your team can adjust medications or make lifestyle recommendations. Since A1c is an average, it doesn’t tell you the whole picture. Having blood sugars below and above your target can average out to an A1c within your target range. Glucose monitoring is the only way to identify patterns and trends in your glucose levels.

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Cholesterol and Triglycerides (aka lipids)

What is it? A cholesterol panel (which includes total, LDL, and HDL) measures the amount found in your blood.  Low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, is the cholesterol that contributes to the risk of heart disease.  High-density lipoproteins, or HDL, is the cholesterol that protects you from cardiovascular disease.  And total cholesterol measures all the types together.

Triglycerides are also a type of fat found in your bloodstream.  High triglycerides are associated with heart attacks, stroke, or liver disease.

Frequency:  At least annually for most people, but this again depends on your individual plan.

Ranges: Optimal values depend on your needs and if you are taking medications like statins to lower your cholesterol.  However, these are the general guidelines:

  • Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL.
  • HDL: Above 40 mg/dL.
  • LDL: Less than 100 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL.

What does the result tell you?  Since you can’t usually feel if you have high lipids, it’s essential to monitor these results, especially since diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.  If these labs come back outside of your target range, your care team can help you make adjustments to reduce your risk.

Kidney function (BUN, Cr, and GFR)

What is it? Kidney function tests measure how well your kidneys are working. Elevated blood sugar and blood pressure can impact kidney function because it affects the small blood vessels.

Frequency:  If you don’t have any signs of kidney damage, these labs are usually drawn annually.  If there’s any indication that your kidney function is changing, your doctor may check this more often.

Ranges: Target values vary based on age, ethnicity, and biological sex, so check with your doctor for your optimal range.

What does the result tell you? Monitoring your kidneys is like lipids because you can have early damage without noticing it.  Catching any early signs of kidney damage can stop disease progression.

Where can I get tested, and how much will it cost?

There are multiple ways to get bloodwork done, including testing at the doctor’s office or a lab near you. If you have insurance, it can often cover at least part of the testing.

But sometimes, there just isn’t a nearby lab. You may not have insurance, or you simply can’t take time off work.  Luckily there are options for blood tests at home.  At-home lab tests allow you to purchase online and ship them right to your door so you can complete the blood test at home on your own schedule.  Even better, these tests are often affordable, even without insurance.

Since regular screening and monitoring keep you healthy and on top of your diabetes care, ensuring access to the tests is critical. Interested in learning more about at-home lab tests in the privacy and ease of your own home?  Or how much a blood test costs without insurance? Learn more about how 9am.health can make it easy for you to stay on top of your diabetes care.