How does the A1C test help diagnose diabetes and prediabetes?

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Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

A1C test is used to diagnose diabetes, an A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests indicates you have diabetes. A result between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes, which indicates a high risk of developing diabetes.

For someone who doesn't have diabetes, a normal A1C level can range from 4.5 to 6 percent. Someone who's had uncontrolled diabetes for a long time might have an A1C level above 9 percent.

For most people who have previously diagnosed diabetes, an A1C level of 7 percent or less is a common treatment target. Higher targets may be chosen in some individuals. If your A1C level is above your target, your doctor may recommend a change in your diabetes treatment plan. Remember, the higher your A1C level, the higher your risk of diabetes complications.

The A1C test gives a broad picture of your blood sugar levels, because it provides an average of your levels over a 120-day span. The A1C test measures the percentage of glycated hemoglobin in your blood. Glycated hemoglobin is created when molecules of hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein in your blood) attach to molecules of glucose (the sugar in your blood). The more sugar you have in your blood, the higher your percentage of glycated hemoglobin, or HbA1c. Someone who does not have diabetes may typically find that about 5% of their hemoglobin is glycated. People with diabetes that is not well-controlled may find that as much as 25% of their hemoglobin is glycated. If an A1C tests shows that 6.5% of your hemoglobin is glycated, your doctor may diagnose you with diabetes.

The A1C test is one of several tools that doctors can use to make an accurate diagnosis of diabetes and create the best treatment plan for you.

Continue Learning about Diabetes

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.