Managing blood sugar

The A1C test helps people with diabetes keep blood sugar in range

Managing the highs and lows of blood sugar may be one of the trickiest parts of living with diabetes.

But it's worth the effort. When blood sugar is in a healthy range, it may give people more energy, a better ability to heal and a lower risk of serious complications.1

There's also a good way to tell when that extra attention is paying off. It's called the A1C test.

It's a big-picture look

The A1C test is different from the daily blood sugar checks that many people with diabetes do at home. Instead of providing a snapshot at a single point in time, it measures average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months.

Blood sugar levels may rise or fall — based on food and activity levels — even within the course of a day. The A1C test shows if blood sugar levels are too high or too low overall. In this way, it may help show how well a treatment plan is working.

Most people with diabetes need an A1C test at least twice a year — or more often, if their numbers aren't on target.

4-part action plan for hitting the mark

For many people with diabetes, a good target A1C is below 7 percent.1 But what's right for one person may not be right for another. So it's a good idea to talk with your doctor before setting a goal.

To help manage their A1C numbers, people with diabetes should work closely with their doctor and other health care team members. A 4-part plan of action might include:

1. Healthier food choices

There isn't a special diabetes diet. Some people find working with a doctor or dietitian on a meal plan to be helpful.2

In general, it's important to:

  • Enjoy a variety of healthy foods.
  • Choose foods that are lower in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and salt.
  • Space meals evenly throughout the day — and avoid skipping meals.

2. An active life

Regular exercise helps keep blood sugar in a healthy range. It may also help with weight control, which can be important for people with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.

People with diabetes should talk with their doctor about a plan for physical activity that's right for them.3

3. Timely checkups

Most people with diabetes should see a doctor at least twice a year for regular care — including an A1C test and blood pressure check. This helps ensure that the right things are being done to manage diabetes and catch problems early.

People with diabetes also need dilated eye exams annually.4 A doctor can also explain how often to see other experts, such as a dentist.

4. Medicines, if needed

Many people need pills or insulin to help manage their diabetes. Taking them as instructed is an important way to help stay on track.

What to do next

Get practical tips on managing type 2 diabetes with this downloadable toolkit It has helpful info and tools to help you take care and stay well.


  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  2. Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered.
  3. For safety’s sake, talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level. Ask about the amounts and types of activities that may be best for you.
  4. A dilated eye exam may fall under your medical benefits or any vision benefits you have. You may be responsible for deductibles, copays or coinsurance that apply.


American Diabetes Association