Understanding your A1C numbers and why they matter is the key to getting and maintaining your blood sugar under control.
When your blood sugar stays at manageable levels, complications are less of an issue.
But, it takes time, as well as carefully following your doctor’s instructions to find the balance. One tool that doctors use is a laboratory test called your A1C number.
Understanding Your A1C Numbers
You may have heard this mentioned in commercials but weren’t sure what it had to do with diabetes. Here’s a simple explanation.
➡ A glucose meter is used to find your blood sugar level at any point throughout your day. This is important for your ongoing treatment because the numbers can alert you to the trouble spots in your diet and lifestyle, such as eating too many carbohydrates.
- When you’re first learning to live with diabetes, figuring all this out it can be frightening and confusing. You don’t realize how important the relationship between glucose and insulin is until your body can no longer do its job properly.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (Insulin Dependent), your body never developed the process to do what it’s supposed to do to the glucose. So, you have to give it the tools to do its job.
Sure, you can test your blood sugar yourself at any given moment, with a glucose meter (glucometer) and get a number that shows compliance with your treatment plan, but that may not have been the case all that week, or even the whole day.
The results might show that you managed to keep your diabetes under good control this week, but you may still seem to have symptoms.
This is why the additional testing is vital and why understanding your A1C numbers and why they matter is crucial.
The A1C number (technically called the HbA1C), is the tool your doctor uses. It gives a broader picture of how you’re dealing with your diagnosis, and is typically monitored with a simple blood test every 3-6 months.
Glucose is not the only thing swimming in your bloodstream, however.
- There are also red blood cells, (which give blood its red color). These cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, which binds to iron in the blood.
But hemoglobin can also be bound by glucose. Remember, glucose is sugar, so it’s sticky.
➡ Glucose that you haven’t used up circulates around for a while and binds with the hemoglobin in the red blood cells.
➡ Since red blood cells live for about three months before they die, that sugar can stick to them for a good amount of time.
➡ The A1C test finds those hemoglobin molecules in the red blood cells and measures how many there are.
➡ The percentage of bound (glycated) hemoglobin lets the doctor know the average blood sugar over that 3 to 6 month period in between your blood test.
➡ A normal A1C level for someone without diabetes will be about 5.6 % or below, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
- Confirmed diabetics have an A1C level at 6.5% or above.
A percentage of eight or nine means your blood sugar has, at some point, been out of control.
Your doctor will use these numbers as a guide. He or she can verify blood sugar management against the logs you keep after using your glucometer.
➡ This is not to catch you off guard, but to help you keep your diabetes under control and prevent health problems due to high blood glucose levels later on.
Keep monitoring your blood sugar using your glucose meter, but be sure to follow-up with your doctor regularly for this other very important test. Read about the 7 “good habits” to give up if you’re a Type 2 diabetic.
The more information you gather about your diabetes, the more likely you’ll keep it under control and avoid complications.