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Do you know your A1C?

GEHA | November 11, 2020

The A1C test is a blood test that can identify prediabetes, diagnose diabetes and monitor how well your diabetes treatment plan is working.

More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, so chances are you may know someone with the disease. Perhaps a doctor mentioned you might be a candidate for prediabetes or you worry you might be diabetic. Whatever the case, keeping an eye on your A1C level is a good idea.

The A1C test is a straightforward blood test that can identify prediabetes, diagnose diabetes and monitor how well your diabetes treatment plan is working. The A1C test results are reported as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the higher your blood sugar levels over the past two or three months and the greater the risk of developing complications from diabetes.

Baseline A1C tests are recommended for adults older than 45, or for adults under 45 but who are overweight and have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is important to get an A1C test at least twice a year. You may need to be tested more frequently if your medicine changes, there are other health issues or you if your test results don’t match what’s expected on your treatment plan.

Unlike other medical tests, there is no need to fast or do other preparation before the A1C test is administered. Typically, the test involves a sample of blood from a finger stick or lab draw. The test measures how much glucose, or sugar, attaches to the part of a red blood cell that delivers oxygen to the cells. The test results are an average of your blood glucose levels over the past three months and are reported as a range of percentages.

A normal A1C level is below 5.7%. The goal for most adults with diabetes is less than 7%. An A1C level between 5.7 and 6.4% indicates a prediabetes range. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher is in the range for diabetes. Because the test results come back as a range of percentages, your goal should also be in a range around a target number.

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A1C testing plays a key role in managing or diagnosing diabetes, but it should not replace regular home blood sugar testing. Blood sugar levels can fluctuate during the day, which isn’t seen on A1C testing. If you are at your target A1C percentage but having highs or lows, check your blood sugar level more often and at different times of day. Record these results and discuss them with your doctor.  

“Diabetes.”, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“A1C does it all.”, American Diabetes Association.
“The A1C test and diabetes.”, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, April 2018.
“How to interpret A1C results to understand your diabetes numbers.”, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 9 September, 2020.
“All about your A1C.”, Centers for Disease Control, 21 August, 2018.
“Diabetes tests.”, Centers for Disease Control, 15 May, 2019.