Interpreting the A1c Test

A1c test
Glucose attached to hemoglobin on red blood cells gives your A1c result. Comstock/Getty Images

Interpreting the A1c Test:

The first thing to know about interpreting your A1c test is that the A1c is measured in percentages. The test measures your average glucose levels over approximately three months.

Everyone has some glucose attached to the hemoglobin in their blood. The question is, how much? The higher the percentage, the higher the glucose levels have been in your bloodstream over that 3-month period of time.

A person without diabetes would have a test result of around 5 percent glucose, so that works as our baseline.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that most people with diabetes try to keep their A1c levels at or below 7 percent in order to properly manage their condition. Research shows that controlling blood glucose levels helps to prevent serious diabetes-related health problems, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Vascular issues
  • Vision limitations
  • Poor oral health

Diagnosing Diabetes With the A1c Test

The A1c test has been approved for diagnosing diabetes. Under the new Clinical Practice Recommendations of 2011 put out by the American Diabetes Association, an A1c of 5.7 to 6.4 percent would indicate that blood glucose levels were high, but not high enough to officially be diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is officially diagnosed with an A1c of 6.5 percent.

This middle ground between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is called prediabetes. This means that a person with an A1c in this range is at high risk for eventually being diagnosed with diabetes if changes are not made to lower the glucose levels in the bloodstream.

People with type 1 diabetes can have an A1c test result that is much higher -- upwards of 25 percent -- if their diabetes management is poor.

Ideally, the goal is to have an A1c test below 7%. A result of 8% or more is a sign that changes need to be made to better manage glucose levels.

Learn how to convert your A1c percentage to a number that corresponds to the numbers on your glucose meter.


American Diabetes Association. American Diabetes Association’s New Clinical Practice Recommendations Promote A1C as Diagnostic Test for Diabetes.

Continue Reading