A1C 101: Why it matters and when to check it.

The “A1C” represents the short form for glycated hemoglobin or the sugar-coated form of hemoglobin.

An A1C test gives you an overview of the long-term blood sugar control over the past two to three months that reflects the average lifespan of the red blood cells (RBCs).

The sugar that enters into your blood binds to a red protein (called hemoglobin) present in RBCs. These cells only live for 90 to 120 days (three to four months) after which they have to be replaced by a new pool of cells. Hence, the percentage of hemoglobin attached to the sugar—abbreviated as A1C—mirrors the diabetic control during the lifetime of the recently replaced red blood cell pool.

What do the results indicate and when to check A1C?

The levels of A1C as listed by the ADAare:

  • Normal: Below 5.7%
  • Prediabetes: 5.7% to 6.4% (you have a higher risk of developing diabetes if your results fall in this range)
  • Diabetes: 6.5% or higher

Normally, only about 4% to 5.6% of hemoglobin attaches to the sugar, which accounts for the normal A1C values of less than 5.7%. However, with higher levels of glucose in your blood, this percentage rises. The greater the amount of hemoglobin coated with sugar, the poorer is your two-to-three month blood sugar control.

The American Diabetes Association(ADA) recommends testing your A1C values at least twice a year.

At first, your doctor may use the A1C test to diagnose diabetes and get your baseline levels. The test is then used to monitor your blood sugar control and to gauge how well the treatment’s working. Readings repeated before the next 120 days can falsely lower the A1C.

Higher numbers that usually indicate poor blood sugar control may warrant more frequent A1C testing. It then becomes imperative to implement strategies to lower your A1C numbers and keep any diabetes-related complications at bay.

What levels to aim for and how to lower A1C?

The target A1C level for people with diabetes as recommended by the ADA has been less than 7 percent. Having said that, a different diabetic organization recently recommended less stringent A1C targets between 7 to 8 percent.

A meticulous blood sugar control can slowly bring your A1C numbers down. Therefore, the tips to lower A1C are the same as that of lowering blood sugar—i.e., dietary and lifestyle tweaks, and medications.

If you have any questions about the best ways to lower your A1C or would like to get your A1C checked, send Coach Bridgit a message.

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