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All About A1C

The A1C is a lab test that people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes should have 2-4 times a year.

"The A1C reflects one’s average blood glucose for the past two to three months," explains Andrea Penney, R.N., C.D.E., at Joslin Diabetes Center. Ms. Penny further explains, that the target for most people with diabetes is an A1C of less than 7 percent (< 7%). Someone without diabetes would have an A1C between 4 and 6 percent (4-6 %).

The A1C—short for “glycoslated hemoglobin A1C”—measures the glucose that clings to hemoglobin molecules in red blood cells. The higher the glucose levels in the blood, the more glucose clings to the hemoglobin, and thus the higher the A1C. The red blood cells live for 120 days, so by measuring the percent of hemoglobin molecules that have glucose attached, healthcare providers can see how much extra glucose has been in the bloodstream over the previous few months.

The A1C is done every three to six months, often during a regular diabetes care visit. It does not require fasting and can be done any time of day. A reading of less than 7 percent may be a good goal for many people, especially during the first few years after diagnosis. Ask your provider what A1C goal you should strive for. Always remember the closer you get to your goal the better you’ll feel today and tomorrow.

"The higher your A1C, the greater your risk for developing complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, neuropathy and circulation problems," says Martin Abrahamson, M.D., and Medical Director of Joslin Clinic.

The Plan? Keep your blood glucose levels in your target range by self-monitoring and making adjustments with medicine (insulin, pills, or both), meal planning and scheduled activity

To learn more about the Joslin Clinic's diabetes care, click here.


Page last updated: September 15, 2019