Do you ever get lost when you’re talking to your doctor because you don’t know the words being used?
Sometimes your doctor or other members of your health care team may use words you aren’t familiar with or that you’ve heard but don’t quite understand. If you feel confused about something your doctor is telling you, ask for it to be explained. Even with answers, you may still feel confused or uncertain about what you need to do following your visit.
We want to help you get the most out of your visit, so we’ve pulled together some commonly used terms your doctor might use when explaining how to better manage your diabetes and risk for heart disease and stroke:
A1C—An A1C blood test can be used to diagnose diabetes or identify prediabetes. It is also used to check how your diabetes treatment is working over time. This relatively simple blood test tells you your average blood sugar (also called blood glucose) level over the past two to three months. A higher level can tell you if you have diabetes or prediabetes and, if you have diabetes, how your treatment is working. If your A1C is higher than your targets, it raises your risk of developing complications. The goal for most adults with diabetes is an A1C less than 7%. Usually your doctor will order this test twice a year or more often, if needed.
Albumin—Albumin is a protein made by your liver that helps keep fluid in your bloodstream, so it doesn’t leak into other tissues. It also carries various substances throughout your body, including hormones, vitamins, and enzymes. Low albumin levels may lead to fluid retention, and can indicate a problem with your liver or kidneys.
Antihyperglycemic agents—Antihyperglycemic agents lower your blood sugar levels. They can be taken as pills or injected and are used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. For many people metformin is the first medication prescribed. Some antihyperglycemic agents, GLP-1s and SGLT-2s, have benefits for your heart and kidneys as well.
Blood glucose—Blood glucose, or more commonly called blood sugar, is found in the blood and is the body’s main source of energy. If you have diabetes, your body has trouble processing blood sugar. There are a variety of ways to check your blood sugar levels, which tell you if you have diabetes or how your treatment is working if you have diabetes.
Body mass index—Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of your body weight relative to your height. BMI, along with other measurements such as waist-to-hip ratio, can be used to help decide whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.
Glomerular filtration rate (GFR)—A glomerular filtration rate is a test used to check how well your kidneys are working. Specifically, it estimates how much blood passes through the glomeruli each minute. Glomeruli are the tiny filters in the kidneys that filter waste from the blood. A blood sample is sent to a lab where the creatinine level in the blood sample is tested. Creatinine is a chemical waste product of creatine—a chemical the body makes to supply energy, mainly to the muscles.
Hyperlipidemia—Hyperlipidemia is when the fat (triglyceride) and cholesterol (total cholesterol and/or LDL cholesterol) levels in your blood are too high.
Hypertension (high blood pressure)—Hypertension occurs when blood flows through the blood vessels with a force greater than normal. The extra pressure can strain your heart, damage blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, and death. The goal for most adults is less than 120/80. Your doctor will give you a target that’s right for you.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)—Hypoglycemia when your blood sugar is lower than normal (less than 70 mg/dL). Signs include if you’re hungry, nervous, shaky, sweating, dizzy, light-headed, sleepy, or confused. If left untreated, it may lead to more serious complications, like losing consciousness. Hypoglycemia is treated by eating a food that’s a source of carbohydrate that will be processed by your body quickly, such as glucose tablets or juice. Severe hypoglycemia, where a person can’t speak or swallow, is treated with glucagon—either injected or inhaled—if the person is unconscious or unable to swallow.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)—Hyperglycemia is when your blood sugar levels are above normal.
Insulin—Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps your body use glucose for energy. If your body cannot make enough insulin and other medications aren’t helping you reach your blood glucose targets, insulin may be prescribed. Insulin is taken by injection or through use of an insulin pump.
Titration—The amount of insulin a person with diabetes needs to take based on a variety of factors such as mealtime carbohydrate load, blood sugar levels, and exercise. For people starting insulin treatment, the initial dose is often relatively small and is increased over the course of the ensuing few days and weeks.
Urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR)—Your urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR) shows whether you have albumin in your urine. Albumin is a type of protein that’s normally found in the blood, not in your urine. People with a high amount of albumin in their urine are at an increased risk of having chronic kidney disease which could progress to kidney failure. The UACR screening is a simple urine test that’s part of a routine exam.
Remember, it’s OK to ask your doctor to explain something in a different way. Have a question? Just ask. Your health care team is there for you.