- Day-to-day blood sugar testing only provides a limited info of what’s happening in the moment and not a full picture of what’s happened in the long term.
- An A1C test measures your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months.
- The hemoglobin A1C test provides more accurate info on how well you are managing your type 2 diabetes.
For some people, home blood sugar testing on a day-to-day basis can be an important tool for managing blood sugar level. However, it only provides a limited info of what’s happening in the moment and not a full picture of what’s happened in the long term, says Gregory Dodell, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes, and bone disease at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.
Because of this, your doctor may occasionally perform a blood test, called A1C test, that measures your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. The hemoglobin A1C test provides another lens on how well you are managing your type 2 diabetes.
How Often Should You Take an A1C Test?
If your blood sugar levels have remained stable, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends getting the A1C test two times every year. If your therapy has changed or you are not meeting your glycemic (blood sugar) targets, the ADA recommends getting the test four times per year.
What Do Your A1C Results Mean?
The A1C test measures the glucose (blood sugar) in your blood by checking the amount of what’s called glycated hemoglobin.
“Hemoglobin is a protein within red blood cells. As glucose enters the bloodstream, it binds to hemoglobin, or glycates. The more glucose that enters the bloodstream, the higher the amount of glycated hemoglobin,” Dr. Dodell says.
According to the ADA, A1C level below 5.7 percent is considered normal. An A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 percent signals prediabetes, while Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when the A1C is at or over 6.5 percent.
What Are the Best Tips for Lowering A1C?
Dodell tells his patients to view diabetes management like a job. It takes work, but the time and effort you put into it can result in good control and an improved quality of life.
“The key to reaching your A1C goal is trying to follow a healthy lifestyle,” he says.
Making these healthy changes can help you lower your A1C:
1. Make Exercise Part of Your Life
Find something you enjoy doing that gets your body moving — take your dog for a walk, play a sport with a friend, or ride a stationary bike indoors or a regular bike outdoors.
A good goal is to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This is what the ADA recommends.
2. Eat a Balanced Diet With Proper Portion Sizes
It’s best to check with a certified diabetes care and education specialist or a registered dietitian-nutritionist to determine what a balanced diet and appropriate portions mean for you. But a great rule of thumb is to visualize your plate for every meal and aim to fill one-half of it with veggies, one-quarter with protein, and one-quarter with whole grains.
3. Regulate eating schedule
Don’t skip meals, let too much time pass between meals, or eat too much or too often. All these can cause your blood sugar levels to fall and rise too much, especially if you are taking insulin or certain diabetes drugs.
4. Follow the Diabetes Treatment Plan
Diabetes treatment is designed differently for every individual. Always talk to your doctor before making any changes, such as starting a very-low-carbohydrate diet or beginning a new exercise regimen, and especially before making any medication or insulin changes.
5. Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels
Work with your doctor to determine if, and how often, you should check your blood sugar. You may be tempted to pick up an A1C home testing kit, but Dodell does not recommend doing that.
As he mentions, day-to-day fluctuations in your blood sugar can be masked by an A1C result that is at your goal level.
Understanding your A1C levels is an important part of your overall diabetes management. If you have any questions about your A1C levels or what they mean, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor.
Source: Everyday Health