HbA1c: What's in a name? And how can I remember it?

Remembering the name of the diabetes blood test is a challenge, says Jane Bates

Remembering the name of the diabetes blood test is a challenge, says Jane Bates

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‘I’ve just had that blood test for diabetes,’ said my patient.

‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘The Hb, um… the Hb er…’

I had to admit that I can never remember what it’s called - I know all about it, but the name won’t stay in my head. 


Working with patients with diabetes, I really should remember it is the HbA1c. But look at it – at first glance you would think it was a password, with the number and letters and mixture of cases, and I am no good at remembering passwords. 

I cannot access my bank account online at the moment because I have forgotten the magic sequence of digits, so there is no chance when it comes to a blood test, even if it is only five characters long.

It does have an alias – glycated haemoglobin – but I’ve never known it in common use, at least not in my neck of the woods. 

Ways to remember

Memory is a weird thing; if it were in a song or a poem, I would be better able to commit it to memory, so maybe that’s the answer? I learned the names of the cranial nerves by setting them to the 12 Days of Christmas, but HbA1c doesn’t lend itself easily to lyrics. 

Or it could be given a proper name, like Koplik in Koplik’s spots, which trips off the tongue quite easily. But HbA1c? Do me a favour. 

Am I alone in experiencing such a mental block? The patients don’t have a problem with it. If they can remember HbA1c, why can’t I?

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 

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