Do you know your A1C test result and what it tells you about blood sugar control?
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A1C, or hemoglobin A1C, is a simple yet powerful test that tells you about your risk of diabetes or level of blood sugar control over the past two to three months. Here's why you should know your A1C test result.
A1C, also known as hemoglobin A1C or glycosylated hemoglobin, is a nonfasting test that gives a picture of your blood sugar over the past two to three months. How can this be?
Blood sugar (glucose) is sticky, just like other forms of sugar. Blood sugar attaches to the hemoglobin portion of your red blood cells, which happen to live about 120 days. The A1C test measures the percentage of "glycosylated" (sugared) hemoglobin in your blood. If you have had too much sugar in your blood over the past few months, your A1C will be elevated. See this resource from the American Diabetes Association to view A1C and corresponding estimated average glucose values (eAG).
A1C is the primary test used to diagnose diabetes or prediabetes. Many people have no symptoms of high blood sugar, yet high blood sugar over time can cause damage to your nerves and blood vessels. Early detection of prediabetes offers you awareness and the opportunity to work on lifestyle changes (such as weight loss and exercise) to reduce progression to diabetes. If you have diabetes, the A1C helps you see how your lifestyle and medication changes are helping manage your blood sugar.
|A1C result (%):||Under 5.7||5.7-6.4||6.5 or higher|
If you have diabetes, the A1C goal for minimizing the risk of complications (especially for the kidneys, eyes, and nerves) is typically under 7%. However, your doctor might set a higher or lower goal based on your age and medical history. Lower isn't necessarily better if you are at risk for dangerously low blood sugar levels.
If you have prediabetes, your goal is to lower your A1C, or at least prevent it from progressing to the diabetes range.
You should get an A1C every three months if you have diabetes and your A1C is above your goal. Once you reach your goal, it is typical to test every six months. Remember that the A1C takes three months to reflect your diet, exercise, or medication changes fully, so it is not helpful to check more frequently than every three months. If you have prediabetes, your doctor may recommend a yearly A1C test.
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Original Contributions from Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDCES
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