Diabetes and A1c: The Value of 1%

Last Editorial Review: 4/19/2005

A 1% drop in your A1c level can dramatically reduce your risk of complications.

By Martin Downs
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

The more tightly you control your blood sugar, the better. Small improvements can have a big impact on your health.

The A1c test measures your average blood sugar levels over a period of months. The result is given as a percentage score, from 6% to 12%. And an A1c level below 6% is normal for people who do not have diabetes. People with diabetes should aim for an A1c score of 7% or less.

A 1% drop in your A1c score greatly reduces your risk for having diabetes complications. Here is what a 1% decrease in the A1c score means for those with type 2 diabetes:

Complications Reduced Risk
Nerve damage
Vision loss
Kidney disease
Peripheral vascular disease 22%
Heart attack 18%
All diabetes-related deaths 25%

You should have your A1c levels tested at least twice a year if your blood sugar is well controlled, and as often as every three months if you don't have your blood sugar under control.

Note: The percentage decreases in risk are not meant to be interpreted as cumulative. That is, a 2% decrease in A1c doesn't reduce the risk of complications by 70%.

Published April 14, 2005.

SOURCES: American Diabetes Association (ADA), "Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes," Diabetes Care, January 2005. ADA, "Implications of the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study," Diabetes Care, January 2002. UK Prospective Diabetes Study Group. "UKPDS 59: Hyperglycemia and Other Potentially Modifiable Risk Factors for Peripheral Vascular Disease in Type 2 Diabetes." Diabetes Care, May 2002.

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