What is A1C and What Should My Number Be?
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Avena

Ever get confused with all those names and numbers on your blood work results sheet?

Perhaps you’ve seen A1C on the list and have wondered what it is.

Well, wonder no more!

Today, we’ll take a closer look at A1C to show you how managing it can make a big difference to your overall health.

What Is A1C?

A1C is a test that measures your average blood sugar level. It can give your healthcare practitioner a good idea of how well you’re managing your health.

This test also may appear as hemoglobin A1C, HbA1c, glycated hemoglobin, and glycosylated hemoglobin.

What is A1C 2

Why You Should Get Your A1C Tested

A1C testing is important because it can provide a clearer picture of your overall health. This test measures the blood levels of a glycate formed between sugar and hemoglobin.

It’s especially valuable for those with insulin challenges and is used to diagnose type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. Importantly, it’s a long-term measure of the average blood sugar levels for the prior two to three months, not just a short-term measure since these numbers are notoriously variable.

Your doctor may order an A1C test to see how well your blood sugar levels have been controlled over the past few months. If your A1C is high, it means that your blood sugar levels have been high over the past three months and you’re at a greater risk for developing serious health complications. This is why it’s so important to keep your A1C level under control.

What Are the Risks of Having High A1C?

There are many risks associated with high A1C levels, and people with blood sugar issues may be at a greater risk of developing serious health conditions.

When blood sugar levels are consistently elevated, it can damage blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys, and feet, which can lead to vision loss, kidney failure, and amputations, respectively. High A1C levels also can lead to an increased risk of stroke.

How to Interpret A1C Test Results

What is A1C 3 Normal A1C levels are below 5.7%. If your A1C is higher than that, it means your blood sugar levels have been high and you may need to make some diet and lifestyle changes.

Your A1C results can range from 4% to 6%, which is still within the normal range. But if your results are consistently 6% or higher, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about ways to lower your blood sugar levels.

Even a small reduction in A1C can reduce your risk of health problems, such as nerve, kidney, and heart issues.

How Long Does It Take to Get Test Results?

It can take up to two weeks for A1C test results to come back. If your A1C test results are high, it means you have too much sugar in your blood and you may need to make changes to your diet and lifestyle. Consult with your doctor or healthcare provider.

Interpreting Your A1C Test

There are a few other key things to consider when interpreting your A1C results that can give you a more complete picture of your overall health. First, it’s important to understand that your A1C results are just one part of the puzzle – they should be interpreted along with other blood tests, such as your lipid panel and fasting glucose levels.

Second, keep in mind that A1C results can vary depending on the time of day they were taken – for the most accurate results, it’s best to have them taken first thing in the morning. If you’re on any medications that could affect your A1C levels (such as birth control pills or statins), be sure to mention this to your doctor so they can interpret your results accordingly.

How to Lower Your A1C?

If you’re working to lower your A1C levels, there are a few things you can do to help. First, work with your healthcare practitioner to come up with a plan that’s right for you. This may include making changes to your diet and exercise routine.

Also, you may need to take medications or insulin to regulate your A1C levels, per your doctor’s recommendation. In addition to medications, there are several natural interventions you can try to help lower your A1C levels.

Some of the Best Natural Ways to Lower Your A1C Levels

Here are just a few ideas for how to lower your A1C levels naturally.

Be sure to:

  • monitor your blood sugar levels regularly
  • take steps to prevent low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia)
  • take steps to prevent high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia)
  • cut out sugar-sweetened beverages and artificial sweeteners
  • use cinnamon in your cooking since it can help lower fasting glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce HbA1c 
  • stay as active as possible
  • eat a healthy diet
  • manage stress
  • get plenty of quality sleep

Also, be sure to talk to your doctor about any changes in your medications, diet, supplements, or lifestyle habits.

Get to Know Your A1C

Deciphering A1C results can be tricky, but it’s important to understand the meaning of them so you can get a better sense of your overall health. Knowing what these numbers mean for your body can help you make decisions and changes in lifestyle habits that can keep you healthier over the long-term.

It’s also good to remember that not all conditions are permanent; with a healthy diet, exercise program, and medical care, you may be able to reduce the risks associated with high A1C numbers. So, review your results periodically and take action if necessary.

Your future self thanks you!


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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This content is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute for medical or healthcare advice from a physician, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new health regimen.

Keith Rowe