If you have diabetes, you’re probably used to checking your own blood sugar with a glucose meter. These blood sugar measurements are important for controlling levels on a daily basis but are less useful for understanding your long-term blood sugar levels.
Your doctor has a way to determine if your blood sugar has been in the recommended range by checking your hemoglobin A1C levels through a blood test. Your A1C shows how well you have been controlling your blood sugar levels over time and can help your health care team determine your average level over the past three months.
What does my A1C mean
An A1C level below 5.7% is normal whereas an A1C level between 5.7 and 6.4 signals prediabetes. For most, the goal is to lower A1C levels. Here’s what the A1C means in reference to average daily blood sugar.
6% A1C = 126 average blood sugar
7% A1C = 154 average blood sugar
8% A1C = 183 average blood sugar
9% A1C = 212 average blood sugar
10% A1C = 240 average blood sugar
11% A1C = 269 average blood sugar
12% A1C = 298 average blood sugar
How often should I check my A1C?
Your doctor or health care team will determine how often you should get your blood work, and A1C tested. Usually, you will be directed to get your A1C levels checked every three months. However, if your diabetes is well-controlled, your doctor may only require you to get your blood work done every six months.
Is there a way to check my A1C besides going to the doctor?
Yes. You can now purchase over-the-counter A1C test kits right from your local pharmacy.
However, using an at-home testing kit for your A1C is not a substitute for regular blood glucose measurements or regular visits with your healthcare provider.
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What should my A1C goal be?
Your doctor will help you determine what your personal A1C goal should be. According to the 2017 American Diabetes Association, a reasonable A1C for many is less than 7%. However, less strict goals may be appropriate for those who have a history of low blood sugar, limited life expectancy, advanced complications, or extensive comorbid conditions.
How can I lower my A1C?
There are many things you can do to get your A1C within your goal.
- Take your medication properly. This means abiding by proper injection technique, and taking your medications as directed by your doctor.
- Adjust your medications with your doctor. In some cases increasing or decreasing your medications can help you reach your A1C goal.
- Increase your diabetes knowledge. Diabetes educators can be a great resource to help you with healthy habits.
- Abide by a healthy diet. Did you know that many grocery stores employ dieticians to help their customers including diabetics increase their food knowledge? Reach out to your specific grocery store to see if they have a dietitian to help. Also remember that fruits, veggies, and lean-protein can also help lower your A1C.
- Exercise. 150 minutes or more of moderate-to-intense physical activity over 3 days per week can help lower your A1c!
- Lose weight.
- Check your blood sugar as directed. Your doctor will help you determine a schedule for testing your blood sugar. A continuous glucose monitor can help you consistently check your levels without a fingerprick!