Q&A with a Pendulum Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Education Specialist about blood sugar and A1C for people without diabetes.
Tara Karr MS, RD, LDN, CDCES
What is A1C, and should people without diabetes track this number?
The A1C test is a common blood test used to diagnose diabetes. For people without diabetes, this is a test your health care provider may run once a year at your annual physical. If your A1C is higher than 5.6%, that indicates you may have pre-diabetes or diabetes.
For people without diabetes, this test is not usually tracked more than once per year but it’s still important to know what the value is if you are mindful about the prevention of diabetes.
Is a lower A1C always better?
It’s important to note that outside of using A1C as a diagnostic tool for people with diabetes, there are no consensus recommendations on what A1C should be for someone without diabetes as long as the number stays <5.6%. I would recommend working closely with your health care provider to determine what your A1C goal should be.
I do like to point out that since A1C results will reflect an average of what your glucose values have been over the last two-three months, it’s common for most people to see some fluctuations!
A great thing to do for yourself is to track these results over time if your A1C values start to increase consistently closer to 5.7%. That's when you might start to consider ways to slow down your increasing blood glucose levels in order to prevent the increasing A1C trend to continue.
Are there reasons A1C might be high outside of diabetes?
Yes, there are other physiological factors that could impact blood glucose that is not connected to diabetes. Additionally, certain health conditions like anemia could impact A1C results so it’s always best to work with a medical team when interpreting your glucose results!
What should my blood sugar be if I don’t have diabetes?
For people without diabetes, typically blood glucose values are
|Fasting (or 8 hours of no food prior)
|< 99 mg/dL
|1-2 hours after a meal
|< 140 mg/dL
It’s important to realize several factors can impact glucose levels such as food, medication, stress, sleep, and more. On occasion, even people without diabetes may see some numbers outside of these numbers.
Keep in mind, that food is fuel for our bodies and our bodies can use carbohydrates from the foods we eat and convert them to glucose (or sugar). This means for people with and without diabetes when you eat, your blood glucose values can and likely will change. Paying attention to things like how quickly your glucose numbers change, what the values are at the 1 - 2 hour mark after eating, and your fasting numbers will give you the most insight into your metabolic health!
How can someone check their blood glucose values?
If you don’t have diabetes but still want to know what your glucose values are there are a few options on how to do this.
- Ask your healthcare provider about checking your fasting glucose and A1C values at your next visit
- Self-monitor your glucose at home using a glucometer and glucose test strips found at your local drug store or pharmacy (over the counter)
- Ask your health care provider about writing you a prescription for a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to track 14 days of continuous glucose data (note, you will likely need to pay the out-of-pocket cost for this)
- There are also some companies that sell CGM devices paired with apps and other resources such as Levels Health, January AI, Nutrisense and more
Who should I reach out to if I am concerned about my blood sugar values?
If you are monitoring your glucose at home and are concerned about the values you see, bring this information to your health care provider so they can help support your personal concerns.