The Continued Importance of A1C Tests for Diabetes Care


While missing one of your routine A1c tests might not be a big deal, missing many more could have a big impact on your diabetes health.

Regular A1c tests are one of the best ways to determine if your blood sugars have been in a safe and healthy range during the previous three months. Without an A1c test, it could be easy to miss signs that your blood sugars are rising which means you might need an adjustment in your diabetes medications.

It’s normal for insulin and medication doses to change, but your doctor can’t make those changes without the evidence that your blood sugars have been higher than your goal range! In fact, your doctor might even decide to try a different medication altogether based on your results.

Here’s a few things you might not know about your A1c results and why it’s so important!.

What is the A1c test really measuring?

A1c tests actually measure the amount of glucose that has attached itself to your red blood cells during the previous three months, with the most recent two weeks having the biggest impact on the result.

The higher your blood sugars have been, the higher your A1c result will be.

Your entire body relies on red blood cells to carry and deliver oxygen. When too much glucose is attached to those cells, the cells become “glycated” and the areas of your body that need a steady delivery of oxygen don’t actually get what they need.

This leads to the damage and destruction of nerve-endings throughout your entire body, contributing to the development of complications like neuropathy and retinopathy.

Your A1c translates to an Estimated Average Glucose (eAG)

Your A1c actually translates to an estimated average blood sugar level and a general range that your blood sugars are in most of the time. The American Diabetes Association offers this easy A1c translation tool or you can find your results in this chart:

A1c (%) mg/dL mmol/L
5 97 (76-120) 5.4 (4.2-6.7)
6 126 (100-152) 7.0 (5.5-8.5)
7 154 (123-185) 8.6 (6.8-10.3)
8 183 (142-217) 10.2 (8.1-12.1)
9 212 (170-249) 11.8 (9.4-13.9)
10 240 (193-282) 13.4 (10.7-15.7)
11 269 (217-314) 14.9 (12.0-17.5)
12 298 (240-347) 16.5 (13.3-19.3)

This chart can be a helpful eye-opener, especially if you haven’t been checking your blood sugar frequently. For instance, you may be checking your blood sugar once or twice a week before breakfast and the results are general in your goal range. But if your A1c results suggest your blood sugars are running higher, it could mean you’re not in your goal range throughout the rest of the day.

Your A1c results can’t replace daily blood sugar monitoring, but combining both of these tools helps you know how your current diabetes regimen is working.

Your A1c is just information, not a grade.

It’s hard not to take A1c results personally. They can easily feel like a “diabetes grade” but that A1c result is truly just information. It says you’re either getting what you need to keep your blood sugars in a healthy range, or you’re not.

If you’re not, your healthcare team can help improve your A1c by introducing a new medication to your regimen, helping you make adjustments in your nutrition and exercise habits, or making adjustments to a medication you’re already taking.

Let your A1c result help you and your healthcare team improve your diabetes and long-term health.

This content was made possible with support from Lilly Diabetes. Beyond Type 1 maintains full editorial control of all content published on our platforms.

WRITTEN BY Ginger Vieira, POSTED 05/27/21, UPDATED 12/13/22

Ginger Vieira is an author and writer living with type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism. She’s authored a variety of books, including “When I Go Low” (for kids), “Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes,” and “Dealing with Diabetes Burnout.” Before joining Beyond Type 1 as digital content manager, Ginger wrote for Diabetes Mine, Healthline, T1D Exchange, Diabetes Strong and more! In her free time, she is jumping rope, scootering with her daughters, or walking with her handsome fella and their dog.