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A1C (Hemoglobin A1C)

~ Martin J. Abrahamson, M.D.

The A1C is an important measurement of how effectively you are managing your diabetes.

The A1C, which is also called a glycohemoglobin or hemoglobin A1C test, reflects your average blood glucose control for the two- to three-month period before the test. This test can be done on a sample of blood obtained from a fingerstick or from a small vial of blood drawn from your arm and then tested in a laboratory..At Joslin we recommend that this test be done every three to six months.  

A person without diabetes would have an A1C between 4% and 6%.  According to Joslin’s Clinical Guidelines, we recommend that you aim for an A1C value of less than 7%, as long as achieving this goal does not increase the risk for developing low blood glucose (or blood sugars), called hypoglycemia.  Ask your healthcare provider what your A1C target should be.  

The higher your A1C, the greater your risk for developing complications such as heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, neuropathy and circulation problems. By keeping blood glucose levels and your A1C in your target range, you’ll greatly lower your chances of getting these complications.  

As a complement to the A1C test, we recommend that you monitor your blood glucose regularly at home with a meter. Checking your blood glucose tells you how your diabetes is doing on a day-to-day basis.  Some people check their glucose once a day while some check eight times a day, depending on how their diabetes is treated and how well-controlled their diabetes is. Your healthcare team can help you determine how often to check. There are times when you should check more often than usual, such as when you’re sick or if you’re starting  a new diabetes medicine.  Also, women who are pregnant and have diabetes need to check more often.  

Keeping your blood glucose levels within target range and keeping your A1C less than 7%are two ways to stay healthy and lessen your chances of developing complications.  

More Information

Downlaod "Six tests for Staying Healthy with Diabetes," featured in this series. Other important tests include:

Page last updated: October 22, 2014