The info I'm about to share was triggered by a comment left by Jim.
He said: “One of the things that has confused me since being diagnosed Type2 is blood sugar and A1C.”
Of course I realized that many people are in the same boat, wondering, what on earth is the difference between hemoglobin a1c and blood sugar!
If that sounds like you, by the time you finish reading through the below info, it should all be crystal clear – no more confusions. 😉
Blood sugar levels
When you take your fasting glucose (aka morning blood sugar levels) or measure 2 hours after a meal, you generally do it on a daily basis so you can get a mg/dL or mmol/l reading (depending where you live in the world).
Measuring daily levels is necessary because as Jim said: “When you're in in the trenches like us, it seems to me focusing on the daily readings makes sense because we can affect those immediately (good or bad).”
And that's exactly right. Even though your levels will change daily, they give you immediate feedback on your level of control.
Daily readings are influenced by diet, exercise, sleep, stress, lifestyle, medications and illness, which is why they can be up and down. Your goal is to hit daily averages that are within the normal range, majority of the time.
Diabetes Blood Sugar Level Goals
Note that ranges can vary slightly depending on what organization or healthcare provider you see. But generally your goals are to reach the following average numbers on a daily basis:
|Time to Check||mg/dl||mmol/l|
|Upon waking before breakfast (Fasting)||70-130 (Ideal under 110)||4-7.2 (Ideal under under 6.1)|
|Two hours after meals||Under 180 (Ideal is under 140)||Under 10 (Ideal is under 7.8)|
What is hemoglobin a1c?
This can sometimes be called A1C, HbA1c, or hemoglobin a1c.
A1C is another, more accurate way to measure blood glucose control.
The A1c is a blood test that reflects your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 month period.
Hemoglobin is our blood, and a process called glycosylation occurs where sugars (glucose) in your blood stream attach to hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen).
The average red blood cell lives for around 3 months, so when they do an A1C blood test they are testing ‘glycated hemoglobin' (which essentially means glucose on the blood).
Unlike blood sugar which will give you a mg/dL or mmol/l measurement (depending where you live in the world), A1C gives a percentage (%) measurement.
The normal range is between 4-6%, so your goal is to lower your A1C so it's a close to normal as possible.
What is the difference between A1C and blood sugar?
Blood sugar = daily readings that show more fluctuation because blood glucose levels are affected by diet, sleep, stress, exercise and so forth.
Hemoglobin A1C = an average reading of three months that is not influenced by the above daily factors.
The benefit of measuring A1C is that it gives a more objective view of your blood glucose control because it can’t be influenced by all those short term things like meal changes, infections, acute glucose changes etc.
Can you convert A1C to average blood sugar?
Remember, your HbA1c is a 3 month snapshot of how well your glucose levels have been running on average. Whereas your daily readings are an actual number of how much glucose is in your blood at any given time.
Therefore, you can't get an exact match measurement for the two. However, there is an A1c to EAG calculator that estimates your average glucose based on A1c and vice versa.
Blood sugar a1c conversion chart
Here is a chart of A1c to estimated average glucose (EAG).
Just be aware, this is taking into consideration the average of all values, including both fasting and post-meal. Because the A1c is an overall 3 month average, it isn’t possible to give an exact correlation between the two because blood glucose is measured daily.
Still, the chart does work as a guide on how your blood sugar to a1c conversion might be tracking. Because sometimes if can be frustrating when you have to wait for that next blood test!
If you focus on gaining good control of your blood sugar levels, your A1C should follow suit, and likewise lower over time.
And just remember, it takes time to gain good control. We often hear people say: “I've been eating low carb for a week and my blood sugar is up one day and normal the next, what gives?”
The answer is: Give it time.
You are not going to see tight daily averages occur over one week. Just like A1C takes 3 months to reflect in your bloodstream, allow at least 3 months to see more normalized levels occurring (or at least lower numbers if your numbers are currently running high).
And even then, once you see some good results occurring, you'll still need to keep an eye on your levels going forward.
Eat well, exercise, sleep, stress less, and do what you can to gain/ maintain good control. It's well worth the effort to stay in good health!
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