An A1c assesses glycated hemoglobin; that is, it tells you how many of your red blood cells have glucose stuck to them. The higher the percentage of hemoglobin cells that are sugared up, the higher your average BGs were over the preceding three months.
It’s an important measure, but up to seventy-five percent of people with diabetes don’t know what an A1c is.
The term just doesn’t lend itself to an intuitive understanding. We measure blood glucose in milligrams per deciliter, not in percentiles. Moreover, exactly what an A1c means in terms of average blood glucose has not been precisely calculated. A good BG level is around 80 to 120 mg/dl, but the recommended A1c is seven percent. Depending on which chart you consult, that’s supposedly equivalent to an average blood glucose level of 150 to 172 mg/dl. It’s just confusing.
Now there’s a movement afoot to de-confuse the entire issue. A study is underway to really figure out exactly what an A1c means in terms of milligrams per deciliter of blood glucose. That number is going to be called an Average Glucose (AG) or A1c-derived average glucose (ADAG). The AG will be calculated by taking the percentage of glycated hemoglobin and translating it into the units that you’re so familiar with from your meter.
The study involves measuring the blood glucose levels of 700 volunteers for four months using frequent fingersticks and continuous glucose monitors, and then measuring their A1c’s for that same period. By comparing the A1c’s to the average blood glucose levels calculated from all the monitoring, the researchers expect to derive a very accurate understanding of what an A1c equates to in terms of average blood glucose.
The study should be completed by September, and the AG will probably be popping up sometimes later.