The A1c Test
What is an A1c test?
The A1c test (each letter is pronounced separately) provides information about your blood glucose level. It measures the amount of glucose attached to the hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying molecule) in your blood and gives an average picture of your blood glucose level over the previous 6-8 weeks. The test involves having a blood sample taken from your arm or finger. The sample is then analyzed in a laboratory or in the clinic. The A1c test is not affected y what you have eaten or drunk in the last few days.
How often do I need an A1c test?
Your A1c test is taken every three months. You might need more frequent tests if , for example, your medication has changed or to assess the effect of any lifestyle changes you have made. Unless you are pregnant, you are unlikely to have an A1c test more frequently than every 2 months because it takes this amount of time for the results to change significantly.
What do my A1c test results mean?
A1c results are given as a percentage – the closer they are to 7 percent (or below), the nearer you are to everyday blood glucose results between 75 and 130 mg/dl. If your A1c result is above 7 percent, discussing your diabetes management with your health professional can help you decide what needs to change. Every 1 percent rise in your A1c result increases the risk of long-term complications by 30 percent, so taking steps to keep your A1c level at or below 7 percent provides great long-term benefit.
If I have a result of 7 percent or lower, will this prevent the long-term complications of diabetes?
Your A1c is only one factor that influences your risk, but it is an important one. It is impossible to guarantee that you will never develop the long-term complications of diabetes, such as eye and kidney problems, but the more time your A1c is below 7 percent the higher your chance of staying healthy, and the risk of your developing these problems is greatly reduced.
I’m hoping to get pregnant. Do I need an A1c test beforehand?
Yes, your health professional will check your A1c if you are planning a baby. High readings can affect your baby’s development, so working to achieve a reading below 7 percent before you conceive is very important.
My home blood glucose tests are usually in the range 75-130 mg/dl. Will my A1c level be around 7 percent?
Your A1c test is a measure of your blood glucose levels at all times of the day, so if you don’t do home tests very often, you may be falsely reassured by results that are in the 75-130 mg/dl range. However, if you test at least once or twice a day and all your results are in the recommended range, your A1c level will be close to or below 7 percent.
Can I buy a home A1c testing kit?
You can buy a home A1c testing kit at some pharmacies. It might be useful to discuss your health professional whether home A1c testing would benefit you before you buy a kit.
My tests are all under 180 mg/dl, but my A1c is 12 percent. Why is this?
Although your results are below 180 mg/dl at the times you do them, they may be higher at other times. This will affect your A1c result. Varying the times you test, for example, after meals as well as before, and aiming for results between 75 and 130 mg/dl, helps influence your A1c result.