The A1C is a common blood test that measures the amount of glucose that is attached to the hemoglobin in our red blood cells. It has a variety of other names, including glycated hemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin, hemoglobin A1C and HbA1 and is used in the diagnosis and monitoring of diabetes. Unlike the traditional blood glucose test, the A1C does not require fasting, and blood can be drawn at any time of day. It is hoped that this will result in more people getting tested and decreasing the number of people with undiagnosed diabetes, which is currently estimated to be more than 7 million adults in the U.S.
The A1C measures average blood sugar levels over a two to three-month period, rather than just at one point in time. This is believed to give a more accurate picture of the effectiveness of a diabetes treatment plan. When used diagnostically, 6.5 percent or higher on two separate occasions is an indicator of diabetes, while scores between 5.7 and 6.4 percent are considered signs of prediabetes, which is a warning of a high likelihood of developing diabetes. After someone has been diagnosed with diabetes, the A1C test is used as a monitoring tool. This provides your endocrinologist with the necessary information to make any changes to your diabetes treatment plan.
Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be controlled, which is crucial because the complications that can arise with uncontrolled levels of persistently high blood glucose levels are significant. Some of these include kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, foot and leg amputation and diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness for adults in the U.S. The higher the A1C level, the greater the risk of developing these or other serious conditions. The lower the better, but a good target level for those with previously diagnosed diabetes is 7 or less.
Ways to Lower A1C
According to the American Diabetes Association, there is another person diagnosed with diabetes every 21 seconds. All of them will soon learn that managing diabetes is not a hit or miss proposition: it requires ongoing and constant awareness and effort. Despite this, most diabetics can enjoy a good quality of life and increase their chances of avoiding serious complications by keeping their A1C number below their target goal. Some of the recommended ways to do that include:
- Get more exercise
- Eat a diabetic-friendly, balanced diet, mindful of portion control
- Maintain a meal schedule that keeps blood sugar levels balanced and fits your lifestyle
- Monitor blood sugar levels
- Follow the treatment plan, including all medications, recommended by your physician