Most commonly, A1C test results are given as a percentage, but in the near future, some labs may also give results as an “estimated average glucose” in mg/dl, the same units that appear on your blood glucose meter. This change is intended to make A1C test results more understandable. (Click here to learn more about estimated average glucose.)
Research has shown that an A1C level below 7% (or an estimated average glucose below 154 mg/dl) means a lower risk of complications from diabetes, regardless of the type of diabetes you have. Depending on your test result, therefore, your health-care provider should work with you to either reinforce your current treatment plan or modify the plan if your blood glucose control needs improvement.
How are my cholesterol and triglyceride levels?
Controlling your cholesterol and triglyceride levels is important for your heart health. Levels should be checked once a year for most adults, and you should have fasted (not eaten or drunk anything but water) for at least eight hours before having blood drawn for this test.
There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol. A high HDL level protects you against heart disease, while a high LDL level raises your risk of heart disease. High triglycerides also raise the risk of heart disease.
Because people with diabetes have twice to four times the risk of heart disease as the general population, you should be aware of your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as the recommended levels for people with diabetes. (See “Know Your ABCs” for the current American Diabetes Association cholesterol and triglyceride targets for healthy adults with diabetes.)
How is my blood pressure today?
High blood pressure not only increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, but it can also damage the blood vessels in your eyes and kidneys, possibly leading to vision problems and reduced kidney function. The recommended blood pressure goal for people with diabetes is below 130/80 mm Hg.
Achieving and maintaining this goal can take time, effort, and numerous follow-up appointments with your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you. But the long-term benefits of making the effort are huge, so make sure you let your doctor know that you’re serious about wanting to control your blood pressure and willing to make the effort.
How do my feet look?
Your doctor should perform a comprehensive examination of your feet at least once a year, although many doctors prefer to examine the feet of their patients with diabetes at every regularly scheduled appointment. A comprehensive foot exam includes inspecting the skin, hair, and nails of the toes and feet and checking nerve function and blood flow. You can help your doctor remember to look at your feet by removing your shoes and socks before your doctor enters the exam room.
In addition to your doctor’s exams, you should be examining your own feet on a daily basis for any changes, injury, or anything out of the ordinary. If you discover a wound or have other troubling foot symptoms, contact your doctor’s office immediately; don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to bring it up.
Are my eyes healthy?
You should have a dilated eye exam by an eye specialist (usually an ophthalmologist or an optometrist) at least once a year. You will want to discuss the results of your exam with both your eye specialist and your diabetes care provider, so be sure to ask your eye specialist to send a copy of the report to your diabetes care provider. Maintaining optimal blood glucose control is key to preventing diabetes-related eye diseases, and early treatment is important to limiting vision loss if any of them occur. Your diabetes care provider can advise you on “tightening” your blood glucose control, if necessary, to protect your eye health.