HbA1c reflects the average plasma glucose (sugar in your bloodstream) over the previous 8 to 12 weeks and measures how much glucose has become stuck onto your red blood cells.(1)
In 2011, the HbA1c test in New Zealand was updated to measure in millimoles per mole (mmol/mol) to align with a shift internationally (2). Prior to this, it used to be measured as a percentage (%) and you may still hear people refer to these units at times. The images below show the new and old units.
Learning what your target range for HbA1c is very important. Having regular HbA1c tests helps both you and your healthcare team monitor how well your diabetes is controlled and whether any changes in lifestyle or medication are needed.
As a general guide, HbA1c levels of:
Read more about prediabetes, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
An ideal range or target HbA1c level will vary from person to person and depends on age, type of diabetes and other health conditions or stages (such as pregnancy). Ask your doctor or nurse what your target HbA1c is.
The following ranges provide a general guide:
A number of studies have shown the many benefits of reducing a high HbA1c level. In these studies, the equivalent of an 11 unit decrease in HbA1c eg. from 86 to 75 mmol/mol or 75 to 64 mmol/mol leads to:
The sooner you take control of your health and do all you can to get your blood glucose and HbA1c levels down into the optimal range, the better. Learn all you can about balancing food, activity levels and medications.
If you are overweight (which most people with type 2 diabetes are) then losing some weight can often be the best thing you can do. In some cases, people have managed to reverse their diabetes by getting back to a healthy body weight and adopting healthier eating and activity patterns.
Work with your doctor/nurse and diabetes team to learn what approach is best for you and regain good diabetes control.If you are on insulin or have high HbA1c levels, then also ask about self-monitoring of your blood glucose levels.
NOTE: if viewing American websites, watch out for different units. In the USA, blood glucose is measured as mg/dL. Visit Diabetes UK to convert blood sugar/glucose from mmol/L (UK standard) to mg/dL (US standard) and vice versa.