Don’t Compare Your A1C to Others!
Last updated: March 2022
Have you noticed a number of diabetes influencers typically keep their A1c private? It’s easy to feel entitled to that information, given influencers share many parts of their diabetes journey.
Why you should not compare your A1c test results
However, besides privacy, there are other reasons why comparing your A1c test results with others is not helpful. Here are 3:
1. Variability in accuracy
Although your A1c carries a lot of influence over your management plan, there are flaws in its ability to give you accurate information.
For example, certain genetic or health conditions that affect your red blood cells can impact your A1c test results. Conditions include pregnancy, anemia, sickle cell disease, chronic kidney disease, and more. Blood loss or recent blood transfusions can also impact your A1c.1
Interestingly, if you are African American, glucose may attach to your hemoglobin (a special part of your red blood cells) at a higher rate, meaning your A1c can be higher than a Caucasian person’s.2
These differences can make it hard to trust your own A1c level, let alone compare to others.
2. Variability in resources
If you’re like most, you realize that a portion of your A1c level is influenced by everyday health habits (something within your power). However, you may be less aware of the environmental, biological, and social influences on your A1c (things you have little control over).
For example, imagine if you have a great job with sick leave benefits (or at least the flexibility to take time off work for medical appointments). Even better, you have affordable medical benefits through your work. Finally, your medical team is within 10 minutes of your home and includes flexible options of virtual or in-person care. All of these things can greatly influence your diabetes management and medical care - thus increasing your chance of achieving healthy A1c levels.
Now imagine you have a friend with diabetes with none of these structural supports in place. It’s likely their A1c level will be higher than yours - through no fault of their own.
Comparing A1cs could make it incredibly uncomfortable for your friend, as A1c is often thought of as being directly influenced by your health habits alone.
3. Variability in glucose ranges
An A1c in itself is an average of your glucose levels over a period of time. That average can be reached in a number of different ways, with a wide variety of glucose levels.
For example, an A1c of 7% could mean all of your blood sugars have been in a healthy range. Yay! It could also mean your blood sugars were in a healthy range most of the time, with few lows and some high readings. Still pretty darn good! Or it could ultimately mean less than half of your blood sugars were in healthy ranges with lots of lows and highs. Yikes!
This means there are times that even a nice-looking A1c doesn’t reflect the true story of your blood sugars.
In short, while chatting about A1c levels can connect you to others with diabetes, it’s important to keep their experience just that - theirs. Follow your own A1c trends, compare them to your own blood sugar levels, and keep it a personal gauge for you and your medical team.
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