The A1C test is a widely used diagnostic test that helps determine the presence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes as well as verify the efficiency of diabetes management. The results of the test show the average levels of blood sugar over the last 2 to 3 months. The test primarily calculates the percentage of hemoglobin that is covered by a layer of sugar. Blood sugar levels that are higher than normal A1C is an indication of poor control of diabetes and increased risk to development of diabetic health complications.
This diagnostic test is a better and more efficient way monitor the glucose levels as compared to blood sugar tests done at home via home kits. The A1C test is also known by many other names such as glycosylated hemoglobin, HbA1c, glycated hemoglobin, and hemoglobin A1C.
The A1C test
The RBCs occurring in the blood have certain protein molecules known as hemoglobin. Among its varied functions, hemoglobin carries out the process of supplying oxygen to the many organs, tissues, etc. in the body and ferrying back carbon dioxide from across the body to the lungs.
Sugar tends to easily stick to varied objects. Removing such sugar can be problematic. In a similar manner, excess levels of sugar in the body get stuck onto hemoglobin and cause it to become glycated. Such hemoglobin is enclosed in a coat of sugar. The lifespan of hemoglobin in the bloodstream is about 100 to 120 days. Hence, an A1C test allows doctors to verify the levels of blood sugar for the past 2 to 3 months.
What is the Normal A1C range?
The normal range of A1C test usually differs from one lab to another. It is regarded as one of the best ways to verify the levels of blood sugar in the body.
- The normal A1C range in people who are not afflicted by diabetes falls between 4.5 percent and 6 percent. A person who has diabetes which has remained unregulated for a prolonged period may show an A1C test result of more than 8 percent.
- The results of an A1C test also helps in diagnosis of an underlying case of diabetes. If two separate A1C tests show an A1C level of 6.5 percent or more, then doctors can conclude the presence of diabetes. A1C test results that range between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent is regarded as prediabetes, a condition which poses increased vulnerability to development of diabetes at a later stage.
- In a majority of individuals who have already being diagnosed with diabetes, doctors will recommend them to achieve an A1C target of 7 percent or below it. The target A1C level may be higher than 7 in some patients. A current A1C level that is higher than the individual benchmark may require corrections and changes in the present diabetes treatment plan for the individual.
- Higher levels of A1C pose increased threat to development of diabetic health complications. Hence, elevated levels of blood sugar indicated by the results of an A1C test can be used as a warning to go for newer treatments, including drastic lifestyle changes and diet modifications. This can help get the A1C levels back within the mandatory normal A1C range, which in turn can decrease the risk to developing micro-vascular complications and other ailments such as ocular disorders, kidney diseases, cardiac problems, stroke, and/or nerve damage.
- An A1C test result that is lower than the normal A1C range is often a sign of a recent or previous case of hypoglycemia. Lower than normal A1C levels are also considered serious as low levels of blood sugar can be life-threatening.
Blood sugar levels and the A1C test chart
The A1C test can help determine the extent of sugar layer buildup on the red blood cells over the course of the past 3 months or 120 days, which is the normal lifespan of RBCs. The test helps verify whether or not the patient has been taking steps to efficiently regulate the blood sugar levels and to manage the overall health of the body. Depending on the test results, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes, medications, and other easy steps to manage blood sugar levels as well as bring the A1C levels back within the normal range.
The chart presented below offers an approximate relationship between the blood sugar levels and normal A1C range
|AIC level in %||Average levels of blood sugar|
|mmol/L (millimoles per liter)||mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter)|
The A1C test
Many doctors and varied medical organizations maintain that the A1C test is the primary and best way to diagnose a case of diabetes.
Patients need to visit a clinic or other diagnostic centers to undergo an A1C test. A sample of blood is drawn out from a vein in the arm and later sent to the lab for examination. It may be noted that the blood test procedure comes with the minor risk of dizziness, fainting, infection, lightheadedness, and buildup of blood below the skin surface.
Patients who get diagnosed with diabetes after the A1C test may need to undergo additional A1C tests at regular intervals of 2 to 6 months. Such additional testing is dependent on the type of diabetes that is diagnosed after the initial A1C test. As normal A1C range and test results vary from one lab to another, patients need to consult a doctor for interpretation of the results and to gain a better understanding of the content.
It is possible for an A1C test to report false results or numbers if the patient is suffering from varied ailments such as kidney disorders, liver diseases, and/or anemia, etc. Other factors which may result in false A1C test numbers include a recent episode of chronic bleeding or heavy blood loss, or a recent blood transfusion; presence of an uncommon type of hemoglobin called hemoglobin variant or just one form of hemoglobin called hemoglobin A; and reduced levels of iron in the blood.
The A1C test is a reliable way to monitor the blood sugar levels and check for diabetes. Eating a balanced and healthy diet, regular exercising, and lifestyle changes can help avoid the ill-effects of diabetes and lead a better quality of life.