The A1C test is a common blood test used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes and then to gauge how well you're managing your diabetes. The A1C test goes by many other names, including glycated hemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin, hemoglobin A1C and HbA1c.
DESCRIPTION OF THE TEST
The A1C test result reflects your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Specifically, the A1C test measures what percentage of your hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen — is coated with sugar (glycated). The higher your A1C level, the poorer your blood sugar control and the higher your risk of diabetes complications. Usually A1C test is recommended to be done every 3-6 months depending on the type of diabetes, your treatment and how control is your diabetes.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Before the test: The A1C test is a simple blood test. You can eat and drink normally before the test. During the test: A member of your health care team simply takes a sample of blood by inserting a needle into a vein in your arm or pricking the tip of your finger with a small, pointed lancet. The blood sample is sent to a lab for analysis. After the test: You can return to your usual activities immediately.
For someone who doesn't have diabetes, a normal A1C level can range from 4.5 to 6 percent. Someone who's had uncontrolled diabetes for a long time might have an A1C level above 8 percent. When the A1C test is used to diagnose diabetes, an A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests indicates you have diabetes. A result between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes or glucose intolerance, which indicates a high risk of developing diabetes. For most people who have previously diagnosed diabetes, an A1C level of 7 percent or less is a common treatment target. Higher targets may be chosen in some individuals, especially people above 85 years old. If your A1C level is above your target, your doctor may recommend a change in your diabetes treatment plan. Remember, the higher your A1C level, the higher your risk of diabetes complications.