Skip to main content

Glucose Testing: The ABCs of A1Cs

Learn about A1Cs and how blood glucose testing can help keep you within range – so you can feel at your best.


Your healthcare professional has probably used a 3-letter word with you: A1C. This small term represents a large part of how well you are managing your diabetes. Below is a blood glucose testing guide to help you get a better sense of what your results mean.

What your A1C test tells you

The A1C (hemoglobin A1C) is a blood test done in a lab that shows your average blood glucose level over the past two to three months. After you eat, the glucose that isn’t used up attaches to a protein called hemoglobin in your red blood cells. The A1C test measures how much glucose is stuck to your red blood cells. Red blood cells live in our bodies for about three months – that’s why the A1C is able to show you how much glucose, on average, has been in your blood for that long.

Think of glucose testing with your meter as an immediate snapshot of your blood glucose – and the A1C as the bigger picture. Together, they give you a complete picture. That’s why it’s important to have your A1C tested every three months.

The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends an A1C less than seven per cent.1 Talk to your healthcare professional about what “target range” you should strive to be in.

What your A1C test can’t tell you

One thing the A1C can’t reveal is if your blood glucose is within range at a given time. Only “smart” blood glucose testing with your meter can.
This includes:

  • Testing around events that can affect your blood glucose the most: meals, exercise, medication and stress levels.
  • As a next step, watching your glucose to see if it is too high or low at certain times, and taking action to keep it where it should be (e.g., try to understand if it changes based on whether you are eating or exercising differently).

Testing at the right times and taking action to keep your blood glucose within range as much as possible can help you stay healthy and feeling your best.

Are you in control?

If your A1C result is greater than seven per cent it may be time to change the way you test and manage your blood glucose levels. Set up an appointment with your healthcare professional to talk about ways to get where you need to be. If you have questions, writing them ahead of time can help guide your conversation and ensure you make the most out of your appointment.



1 Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Guidelines Expert Committee. Canadian Diabetes Association 2013 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada. Can J Diabetes 2013;37(suppl 1):S1-S212.