An A1C test is one of the main blood tests that can help your doctor diagnose prediabetes and diabetes.1 A fasting blood glucose test is another important test that takes a snapshot of your current blood glucose level after you have fasted. Together, a fasting blood glucose level and an A1C level play important roles in checking to see how well your diabetes treatment plan is working.
Diabetes is a disease where your body either can’t produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or can’t respond to insulin (type 2 diabetes), resulting in high blood glucose levels. Insulin is important because it fuels your body by moving glucose from your blood to your cells. If there isn’t enough insulin available, or if it can’t be used properly, then the glucose will remain in your blood. Prediabetes is when your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for you to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
It is important to control your diabetes and keep your A1C within target levels to prevent diabetes complications such as heart, kidney, nerve and eye damage.
Traditionally, A1C testing is done at your doctor’s office or a lab where a blood sample is taken from a vein. However, there is now a more convenient and less invasive way to test your A1C. It involves a simple finger prick to draw blood which will then be analyzed in a small device. Unlike the fasting blood glucose test, the A1C test does not require you to fast. You can get your A1C result in as little as 5 minutes with this A1C finger prick test.
If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, your A1C should be measured regularly. You should check your A1C every 3 months if your glucose level targets are not being met, or when changes are being made to your diabetes management.1
If you are 40 years of age or older, you should have your A1C tested at least once every 3 years.2 If you have risk factors for type 2 diabetes, you may need to be tested earlier and more frequently.2 Some risk factors for diabetes include:3
- being overweight
- having a parent or sibling with diabetes
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder)
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- a history of gestational diabetes (high blood sugar levels during pregnancy)
Ask your doctor or local Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist if you are unsure about how often you should be testing your A1C.
You can get an A1C finger prick test in the pharmacy at participating Shoppers Drug Mart locations, for a fee of $25. Call one of our participating Shoppers Drug Mart locations today to book an appointment.
An A1C level can help your doctor diagnose diabetes, and help your pharmacist monitor it. Target A1C levels can vary from person to person. Your target A1C level can depend on many factors such as your age, medical conditions and other risk factors.
A1C (%) Results < 5.5 Normal (rescreen as recommended) 5.5 – 5.9 At risk (rescreen more often) 6.0 – 6.4 Prediabetes (rescreen more often) ≥ 6.5 Diabetes
An A1C of 6.0% to 6.4% indicates prediabetes. 4 5 If you are at risk (5.5% to 5.9%) or if you have prediabetes (6.0% to 6.4%), you should consider making lifestyle changes that address your diet and exercise routine. If left unmanaged, prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes, which is diagnosed if your A1C level is above 6.5%.5
Most adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes should aim to have their A1C below 7.0%.6 An A1C target of 7.0% to 8.0% may be reasonable for people with frequent low blood sugar symptoms such as sweating, anxiety, and a fast heartbeat. If your A1C is higher than 8.5%, your doctor may adjust your medication therapy to prevent long-term complications like heart disease. If you are unsure what your target A1C level should be, talk to your doctor or local pharmacist at one of our Shoppers Drug Mart stores today.
On rare occasions, your A1C may not provide an accurate measurement of your body’s glucose level. Your A1C level can be affected by kidney failure, liver disease, severe anemia (low iron levels), or chronic opioid use.1 If you have any of the conditions mentioned above, it may not be the best choice to get your A1C test done at the pharmacy. If you’re unsure, talk to your health care provider to explore your options.
Your A1C test can give you a good idea about your overall glucose level.
If you don’t have diabetes, an A1C within target is a good sign, and you should continue making healthy lifestyle choices. If you have diabetes and your A1C is within target, that’s great! Keep up your healthy choices and continue on your diabetes treatment plan.
If your A1C is on the higher side, talk to your doctor or Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist to come up with a specialized management plan. This may involve adjusting your lifestyle habits or medications. It may also be a good idea to start self-testing your blood glucose levels at home if you haven’t already. You can buy a home blood glucose monitor at your local Shoppers Drug Mart store. Together, frequent blood glucose testing and knowing your current A1C value can give you greater control in managing your diabetes.1