Diabetes & Haemoglobin

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Haemoglobin is a molecule found within your red blood cells whose primary function is to transport oxygen from your lungs to the cells of your body where it releases the oxygen and picks up carbon dioxide, that it then transports back to the lungs. There are a number of different types of haemoglobin molecules that vary slightly in the arrangement of their atoms. One type known as HbA is able to (very slowly) bind with glucose (sugar) that is carried in the blood stream alongside the red blood cells. Once HbA has bound with glucose it becomes known as glycated haemoglobin and the proportion of glycated haemoglobin in your red blood cells can be used to estimate the blood sugar levels over the life of the red blood cells. This is because over the 120 days that a single red blood cell “lives” within your blood, the haemoglobin that it contains will have the opportunity to react with glucose. However, the number of times that an HbA molecule meets a molecule of glucose with vary depending on your blood sugar level. This means that people with high sugar levels over the 120 days of the red cell live, will have a larger amount of glycated haemoglobin within their red blood cells. The measurement of the proportion of glycated haemoglobin within your blood acts as a method of monitoring any variation in the concentration of glucose in your blood stream which is particularly important if you a diabetic as poor long term control of your blood sugar level can put you at higher risks of developing various secondary diseases such as neuropathy (nerve diseases), heart disease and eye problems.   

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