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Amazing to me that when I ask someone with diabetes what their most recent A1c was, the response is very often, “What’s that?” or “I don’t know, but my blood sugar this morning was 128.” or “My doctor says I’m doing fine”.

So, let’s start out with why your A1c is important. From the standpoint of your personal health it is a measure of how well your glucose levels are controlled. The hbA1c test, rather than taking a one second snapshot like a glucose test, can actually provide you with an overview of a 2 to 3 month period and what your average glucose was around the clock during that time.

Most with type 2 diabetes, unlike type 1 diabetes, that monitor their glucose get into a habit of doing it the same time everyday and usually, because they know the numbers are better, that is done before meals. But let’s be honest. You know that just because your glucose is 128 before a meal almost every day doesn’t mean that it is 128 after you eat or when you mess up and do something you know you shouldn’t. The hbA1c uncovers all of those readings and averages them with all of the good readings and gives a true picture of control. From the article above this chart gives you an idea of what your A1c equates to in average glucose readings.

HbA1c and Blood Glucose Levels

6.0% 120 mg/dl

7.0% 150 mg/dl

8.0% 180 mg/dl

9.0% 210 mg/dl

10.0% 240 mg/dl

11.0% 270 mg/dl

The other reason, other than your health, that the A1c is important is to a life insurance underwriter. That underwriter knows this chart and he knows that even if you have a glucose level of 108 on your insurance exam, if you A1c is 7.5 then your average glucose is really 165. Putting that further into context, if when you are good your glucose is 108, and the average is 165, then there must be plenty of times that it is 200 or over. Dangerous territory.

If your A1c is over 7.5 and your doctor tells you that you are doing great, ask him or her why you are doing great if your glucose is really all over the map and occasionally at dangerous levels.

Bottom line. For many of us we think the best we can do when faced with something like diabetes is to find a good doctor and get treated. Too many of us don’t take the opportunity to educate ourselves about our health issue and know what’s really doing Ok and what’s not. Always get copies of the labs you have done. Always ask about anything that isn’t in the normal range and honestly now, don’t accept the answer that it’s OK when it clearly isn’t where it should be. Take charge of your future.