Understanding your A1C

Last Modified: 6/13/2022

A1C

This post was written by Kaitlyn Creager, lifestyle change specialist, Diabetes Care Services, Parkview Health.

Living in the digital age, we often get lost in an onslaught of information, inevitably leading to more questions than answers. Which diet should I follow? Which website is most accurate? Which medical tests are necessary? How often should they be repeated? Unfortunately, when it comes to getting bloodwork, specifically Hemoglobin A1C, people are often left wondering when they should get screened for diabetes and how often. To help answer this question, I want to take a closer look at when and how often you should have your A1C checked.

Prevalence

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), an estimated 84 million Americans have prediabetes. Of those 84 million, 90% didn’t know they had an elevated A1C. The risk factors that place individuals at an increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • An elevated A1C (between 5.7 and 6.4)
  • An inactive lifestyle (<150 minutes of physical activity a week)
  • Being 45 years of age and older
  • Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • A family history (parents or siblings with Type 2 diabetes)

Currently, there is no cure for diabetes. But if someone tests positive for prediabetes, they can work with their provider and healthcare team to monitor and lower their A1C level before it reaches the diabetes diagnostic threshold.

Know your numbers

Understanding your hemoglobin A1C is a critical step in monitoring and managing your risk for diabetes. It’s a blood test that watches for blood glucose trends. Think of it as a three-month snapshot of your blood glucose. An A1C below 5.7% qualifies as “normal.” If someone’s A1C reaches 5.7%-6.4%, it’s in the prediabetes range, and once their A1C reaches 6.5% or greater, they will receive a diabetes diagnosis.

The ADA recommends Americans get their baseline A1C checked around the age of 45 unless there are other risk factors present, in which case we encourage patients to get tested sooner. Then, after the initial baseline check:

  • Patients with a diabetes diagnosis should get their A1C checked approximately every six months
  • Patients with a prediabetes level A1C are encouraged to rescreen in one year
  • Patients with a normal A1C should rescreen in three years

If you think you are at risk for diabetes, the ADA has a quick diabetes risk test you can complete in 60-seconds. If you have questions or are still unsure whether you should have your A1C checked, please speak with your primary care provider. They can help you make the best decision for you and your situation.

 

Sources

All about your A1C

Diabetes risk factors

ADA: Risk test

ADA: A1C does it all

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