What is an A1C?

Controlling diabetes can seem like a daunting task, but like a lot of other difficult things, if you break it down, it doesn’t seem as overwhelming.

Any patient of mine that is a diabetic knows that at their annual dilated fundus exam, one of the first questions I ask them is “What is your A1C?”

Without a doubt, the single most important number for a diabetic to know is their A1C; it gives you a more accurate view of your overall success in managing diabetes.

The A1C is a blood test that your primary care physician orders with your other routine blood work. When your sugar is well stabilized it is usually recommended once a year,

If your sugar is not well stabilized then it could be checked as often as every three months.

Think of the A1C as being like a baseball player’s batting average, it looks at the longer period of time as compared with your daily self checks, which provides a onetime snapshot of your fluctuating sugar levels.

Ok, so how does the A1C know how much sugar you’ve consumed in the last three months?  Well, sugar is sticky. It’s not only sticky on your hands; it’s also sticky when it’s in your blood stream, so it sticks to blood cells. Blood cells live, on average, about three months, so scientists can measure how much sugar the cells collect in three months. And they can get an average idea ( like a baseball player’s batting average) how much sugar was consumed in the past few months.

Next week’s blog will be on how to lower the A1C, but here’s a hint: medication can lower your blood sugar level by 31%, but diet and exercise can decrease it by 52%.



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