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Diabetes awareness: How to control your A1C

GEHA | November 22, 2019

Everybody has some sugar in their blood, but higher blood sugar levels are linked to diabetes complications.

The A1C test is an important part of managing your diabetes. It shows your average level of blood sugar over the past two to three months.

The sugar in your blood is called glucose. When glucose builds up in your blood, it binds to a protein in your red blood cells called hemoglobin. The A1C test measures how much glucose, or sugar, is in your blood.

Everybody has some sugar in their blood, but higher blood sugar levels are linked to diabetes complications. That’s why maintaining a healthy A1C level is important if you have diabetes. How often you need the A1C test depends on the type of diabetes you have and how well you’re managing your blood sugar.

Recommended testing:

  • Twice a year if you have Type 2 diabetes, you don’t use insulin and your blood sugar level is consistently within your target range.
  • Every three months if you have Type 1 diabetes.
  • Every three months if you have Type 2 diabetes, you use insulin to manage your diabetes or you have trouble keeping your blood sugar level within your target range.

A1C test results are reported as a percentage. A higher percentage corresponds to higher average blood sugar levels. The higher your A1C level, the higher your risk of developing complications of diabetes.

If your A1C level is between 5.7% and 6.4%, you have prediabetes. A level of 6.5% or higher means you have diabetes. An A1C level of 7% or less is a common treatment target.

A1C is an important tool for managing diabetes, but it doesn’t replace regular blood sugar testing at home. Blood sugar goes up and down throughout the day and night, which isn’t captured by your A1C.

Adults with diabetes are twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke. This is because over time high blood sugar can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart. The good news is you can take steps now to manage your diabetes and help lower your chances of heart disease or stroke.

Tips for A1C control

  1. Eat well: Take time to cook. Look online for budget-friendly, easy recipes. Limit fast food, prepackaged and processed foods. Eat more veggies. Write down all your meals and snacks to be more aware of what you eat.

  2. Be active: Exercise is one of the best tools for managing diabetes. Find ways to be more active throughout the day, like walking and taking the stairs. Work out with a friend. Use an activity tracker. Look online for workout videos.

  3. Manage stress: Try meditation or yoga to relax. Go for a walk. Get together with a friend.

  4. Medications: Take medications as prescribed by your doctor and continue your regular A1C testing.

“All About Your A1C.”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 August 2018.
“Living Well with Diabetes.”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 October 2018.
“A1C test.”, Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 18 December 2018.
“National Diabetes Month 2019.”, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019.
“Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) Test for Diabetes.”, WebMD LLC, 1 November 2018.