A1c Cringe Factor
Let’s face it. Those of us living with diabetes know that the Hemoglobin A1c of a person without diabetes is < 5.7%. So, when someone asks us what our A1c is, most of us just cringe. Many times, it feels the same as when you are asked how old are you? Or how much do you weigh? We are usually hoping that we look younger and weigh less than we actually do. And we are always wishing that our A1c is lower than it really is.
Chronic Conditions are not Simple and Predictable
When you stop and think about it, chronic conditions are not simple and predictable. They do not come with quick and easy instructions. There are guidelines and strategies and most of the time they’re generally effective. At times, they aren’t. With diabetes you’re required to replicate the physical processes that other people’s bodies perform naturally. And the body can often react in surprising ways, regardless of how careful or methodical you think you’re being.
Manage vs Control
I prefer to think in terms of “managing” my chronic conditions, rather than controlling them. Managing is a more accurate term, and it’s also more forgiving. Control is judgmental. There’s a societal perception that plays a role. If my blood sugar is too high, I am “out of control.” I “cannot control” it. I’m not doing what I’m “supposed” to be doing. I’m not “compliant.” Who needs that kind of pressure?
In reality, nobody can manually control something as volatile and unpredictable as one’s blood sugar with the same degree of sensitivity and accuracy as the body can on its own. So, you do the next best thing if your body is unable to do it. You do what you’re capable of doing. You manage it.
The A1c is the gold standard
The A1c test is the gold standard for how you are managing your blood sugar over time. It’s a simple blood test that reflects your average blood sugar level over the past three months. It works because glucose binds to the hemoglobin in your red blood cells and red blood cells live for about three months.
The test can measure, therefore, the amount of glucose built up over that time and provide an average. Averaging out the highs and lows allows you to make adjustments more accurately than a single reading here or there. And it reveals how you’re trending in the long-term. Ideally, you should have the A1c test done every three months. You’ll want to work closely with your doctor or medical team to best determine your target A1c.
Look at your trend
Remember, your A1c numbers are important, but more important is the trend. Be patient and focus on going in the right direction. Then you will feel confident about how well you are managing your diabetes.