A1C levels are a key indicator for how well you’re managing your diabetes. But what exactly does this test reveal and how can you use it to improve your health? Here’s what you should know.
What is an A1C test?
An A1C test is used by doctors both to diagnose and monitor diabetes.
In a nutshell, the test gives an overview of blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. How does it work? 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 mirrors the diabetes control during the lifetime of the recently replaced red blood cell pool.
What do the results mean?
The levels of A1C as listed by the ADA are:
- Normal (Non-diabetes): 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 is why normal A1C values are anything 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 your two-to-three month blood sugar control.
When should I check my A1C?
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.
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.
How can I lower my A1C?
The target A1C level for people with diabetes as recommended by the ADA has been less than 7 percent. More recent research less stringent A1C targets between 7 to 8 percent depending on age and health history.
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 send your Care Team a message!