What Is The Definition of HbA1c?


What You Need to Know About Your HbA1c

  • You need to know your HbA1c to understand your control.
  • If your diabetes is well controlled, you may only need a HbA1c test twice per year.
  • Your HbA1c goal is 7% or less.

What You Need to Do–Your HbA1c

  • See a doctor to discuss your HbA1c.
  • Follow your diabetic plan based on your HbA1c results.


What Is the HbA1C?
Think of your HbA1C as a summary of how your diabetes has been doing over the last several months. The HbA1C test uses your blood sugar to see how well or poorly your diabetes control has been.
The HbA1C measures how much sugar attaches to your red blood cells. Because red blood cells stay in your body for about 3 months, the HbA1C test can measure your diabetes control for about the last 3 months.

What Should My HbA1C Be?
This depends on who you ask, but the lower your HbA1C the better. The American Diabetes Association recommends a HbA1C of less than 7%, while the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (doctors that are diabetes specialists) recommend a level of 6.5% or less. The lower you can get your HbA1C,  the less likely you will develop complications. You and your doctor should discuss your goal HbA1C as your age, other medical problems, and risk of hypoglycemia all will affect your target HbA1C.

What Does An Elevated HbA1C Mean?
When your HbA1C is elevated, you increase your risk of diabetes complications. The Diabetes Control and Complications Study demonstrated that your risk of complications from diabetes rises as your HbA1C increases.

How Often Should I Get a HbA1C?
The HbA1c is one of the most important numbers you need to understand about your diabetes. You can think of the HbA1c as a summary of how your blood sugar control has been over the last several months. While you may check and measure your blood sugar several times per day, the A1C determines how well your blood sugar has been controlled over the last 2-3 months.

While your daily checks of your blood sugar are a quick check of your diabetes control, the A1C test is the most accurate measure of your diabetes control. If your diabetes is under good control, you may only need the A1C test twice per year. If your diabetes is not as well controlled, your healthcare provider may check the A1C more often.

Your doctor can often preform the A1C test right in the office and you do not need to avoid eating before you have the A1C test done.

What Does My A1C Mean?
Your goal A1C will depend on a number of factors like age, other medical conditions, and risk of hypoglycemia. In general, your doctor would like to see your A1C less than 7%. When your A1C is at this level, your diabetes plan is working well. In general, the lower your A1C, the less your risk of developing complications. As a result, your doctor may push you to get your A1C even lower.

Why Does Lowering My A1C Matter?
Lowering your A1C decreases your risk of diabetic complications with your:

  • Eyes
  • Kidneys
  • Nerves
  • Heart

For every 1% you lower your A1C, you significantly decrease your risk of developing diabetes complications. In the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study, lowering your Hba1c by 1% (e.g. 8% to 7%) decreases the risk of complications like eye disease by 21% and the risk dying by diabetes by more than 20%.

Tests Other Than A1C Your Doctor May Order

  • Creatinine
  • Thyroid
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Cholesterol


American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2011 Accessed January 2, 2013.


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