What is A1C?
Your A1C number
Consider your A1C number (also known as HbA1c or glycated hemoglobin) as a snapshot of your blood glucose levels over several months. Over time, glucose naturally attaches itself to your blood cells. When this happens, the cell is considered “glycated.” The more glucose in your blood, the more glycated A1C cells you have.
What’s an optimal A1C number?
The recommended A1C target for a person with diabetes is 7% or lower—some people remember this figure as “lucky number 7.” However, while your A1C number gives you and your doctor an idea of how your diabetes is being managed over time, it does not tell you about drastic drops and elevations in your day-to-day blood glucose levels during that period.
How do fluctuations in my blood glucose levels affect my overall health?
While drops (hypoglycemia) and peaks (hyperglycemia) in your blood glucose levels outside of your target zone can have an immediate impact on your sense of well-being, research shows that the long-term consequences of such fluctuations can be dangerous. Studies show that hyperglycemia can increase your risk of developing heart, eye and kidney disease, as well as certain cancers, particularly in cases of post-meal hyperglycemia. Your A1C is an important part of your diabetes management, but it cannot replace daily self-monitoring, which highlights how your body and blood glucose respond to meals, physical activity, medications, illness and stress over short periods of time.
How often should I test my A1C?
Generally, you should test your A1C no fewer than twice a year, and most medical professionals suggest testing every three months, which is the approximate lifespan of blood cells. You can test your A1C with an at-home kit or at your doctor’s office. Speak with your healthcare professional to determine where and how frequently you should test your A1C level.
Reducing your A1C value to a healthier level can decrease your risk of many diabetes-related complications, so you can live a fuller, healthier life.
1American Diabetes Association. A1C test. Available at: http://www.diabetesarchive.net/type-2-diabetes/a1c-test.jsp.
2American Diabetes Association. A1C. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/a1c/.