What is A1C?

Q: The doctor told my mother she has diabetes and her blood glucose is out of control. He said her A1C was 9. What does that mean?

A: Glycosylated hemoglobin, often referred to as HbA1c or simply A1C, is the measure of a person's average blood glucose level (all the ups and downs) over the last two to three months. The purpose of the A1C test is to give you a sense of your blood glucose control. It is reported as a percent.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that most people get their A1C down to 7 percent or less. Other diabetes organizations, such as the International Diabetes Federation, suggest 6.5 percent. If your mother's A1C level is 9 percent, this means her blood glucose level, on average, is about 210 mg/dl. This result is high and unhealthy. She should take some action to improve her blood glucose control, such as eating more healthfully, being more active, and changing or adding to her blood-glucose-lowering medications. To find out which course of action is right for her, encourage her to discuss this with her diabetes care providers.

Thanks for asking. Knowledge is power!

Jeannette Jordan, M.S., R.D., CDE, is the American Dietetic Association's national spokesperson for African-American nutrition issues and oversees nutrition education at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.