The A1C test is a type of blood test. It provides information about your average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. If you have type 2 diabetes, the test can help you learn how well your current treatment plan is working.

What factors impact my A1C results?

Your A1C test results might vary from one test to another. Several factors can affect the results, including:

Changes in your treatment plan

If you’ve recently changed your lifestyle habits or treatment plan for type 2 diabetes, it can affect your average blood sugar levels. It’s also possible for your treatment plan to become less effective over time. This can affect the results of your A1C test.

Supplement or substance use

Using certain supplements, medications, or drugs (such as opiates) might impact the results of your A1C test. For example, taking vitamin E (at doses of 600 to 1200 milligrams per day) or vitamin C supplements (1 gram or more daily for 3 months) can affect the results. Chronic alcohol and opioid consumption can also cause false results.

Hormonal changes

Changes to your hormone levels can affect your blood sugar levels, which can influence your A1C test results.

For instance, if you’ve been under a lot of stress for a prolonged period of time, it can increase your stress hormone levels and blood sugar levels. If you’re pregnant or going through menopause, that can also affect your hormone and blood sugar levels.

Blood disorders

If you have a medical condition that affects your red blood cells, it can potentially influence your A1C test results. For example, sickle cell disease and thalassemia can make the test unreliable. Recent blood loss, blood transfusion, or iron deficiency can also influence the results.

Lab conditions

Small changes in laboratory environments and procedures can potentially affect the results of lab tests, including the A1C test. For example, changes in temperature or equipment might make a difference.

If your A1C levels change from one test to another, your doctor can help you understand why. Let them know if you’ve made any changes to your day-to-day habits, medication use, or supplement use. Tell them about any recent blood loss, illness, or stress that you’ve experienced.

If needed, they might recommend changes to your lifestyle or treatment plan. In some cases, they might order another test to confirm the results.

How often should I get the A1C test?

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), your doctor should test your A1C level at least twice a year. Depending on your health history, your doctor might recommend more frequent testing.

Ask your doctor how often you should get the A1C test.

What should my A1C test result be?

A1C test results are reported as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the higher your blood sugar levels have been in recent months.

In general, the ADA suggests aiming for an A1C test result of equal to or lower than 7 percent. But your individual target might vary, depending on your health history. Your doctor can help you set a target that’s safe for you.

Ask your doctor how high your test results should be.

Have I failed if my test results are high?

Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease. It can take time to develop a treatment plan that works for you. As other aspects of your life change, your treatment plan might need to be adjusted too.

If your A1C test results are high, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. Instead, it might be a sign that your treatment plan needs to be tweaked. Talk to your doctor to learn about your treatment options and the steps you can take to manage your blood sugar levels.

If you’re having trouble following your treatment plan, let your doctor know. In some cases, they might be able to prescribe treatments that are easier for you to use. Or they might have tips to help you stick with your current plan.

What strategies can I use to manage my blood sugar?

To help manage your blood sugar levels, your doctor might recommend one or more of the following:

  • changes to your diet, exercise routine, or other lifestyle habits
  • oral medications, injectable medications, or a combination of both
  • weight-loss surgery

Your doctor might refer you to a specialist who can help you develop healthy lifestyle habits and an effective treatment plan. For example, a dietitian can help you design an eating plan for optimum blood sugar control. A mental health specialist can help you cope with stress.

The takeaway

The A1C test can provide useful information about your blood sugar levels and the effectiveness of your treatment plan for type 2 diabetes. To learn what your test results mean, talk with your doctor. They can help you understand your results and make changes to your treatment plan if needed.