PloS one 2017 09 0812(9) e0184607 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0184607
BACKGROUND AND AIMS
Glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) ≥6.5% (or 48mmol/mol) has been recommended as a new diagnostic criterion for diabetes; however, limited literature is available regarding the effect of age on the HbA1c for diagnosing diabetes and the causes for this age effect remain unknown. In this study, we investigated whether and why age affects the diagnostic efficiency of HbA1c for diabetes in a community-based Chinese population.
In total, 4325 participants without previously known diabetes were enrolled in this study. Participants were stratified by age. Receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC) was plotted for each age group and the area under the curve (AUC) represented the diagnostic efficiency of HbA1c for diabetes defined by the plasma glucose criteria. The area under the ROC curve in each one-year age group was defined as AUCage. Multiple regression analyses were performed to identify factors inducing the association between age and AUCage based on the changes in the β and P values of age.
The current threshold of HbA1c (≥6.5% or 48mmol/mol) showed low sensitivity (35.6%) and high specificity (98.9%) in diagnosing diabetes. ROC curve analyses showed that the diagnostic efficiency of HbA1c in the ≥75 years age group was significantly lower than that in the 45-54 years age group (AUC: 0.755 vs. 0.878; P<0.001). Pearson correlation analysis showed that the AUCage of HbA1c was negatively correlated with age (r = -0.557, P = 0.001). When adjusting the red blood cell (RBC) count in the multiple regression model, the negative association between age and AUCage disappeared, with the regression coefficient of age reversed to 0.001 and the P value increased to 0.856. CONCLUSIONS
The diagnostic efficiency of HbA1c for diabetes decreased with aging, and this age effect was induced by the decreasing RBC count with age. HbA1c is unsuitable for diagnosing diabetes in elderly individuals because of their physiologically decreased RBC count.