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Blood Glucose: Test Early, Test Often


To take care of diabetes and feel your best, you need to know your blood glucose numbers and your target goals.  Keeping blood sugar close to normal reduces your chances of having heart, eye, kidney, and nerve problems that can be caused by diabetes.

There are two different tests to measure your blood glucose.

1.   The A1C (pronounced A-one-C) test
2.   The blood glucose test you do yourself – also called self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG)

You and your healthcare team need to use both the A1C and SMBG tests to get a complete picture of your blood glucose control.

What is the A1C test?

The A1C test is a simple lab test that measures average blood glucose levels over the past 3 months. A small blood sample to check your A1C can be taken at any time of the day.

Why should I have an A1C test?

The A1C test is the best test for you and your healthcare team to know how well your treatment plan is working over time. The test shows if your blood glucose levels have been close to normal or too high. The higher the amount of glucose in your blood, the higher your A1C result will be. A high A1C test result will increase your chances for health problems.

What is a good A1C goal?

You and your healthcare team should discuss an A1C goal that is right for you. For most people with diabetes, the A1C goal is less than 7. An A1C higher than 7 means that you have a greater chance of eye disease, kidney disease, heart disease, or nerve damage. Lowering your A1C by any amount can improve your chances of staying healthy.

If your A1C is 7 or more, or above your goal, ask your healthcare team about changing your treatment plan to bring your A1C number down.

Level of control

A1C number


6 or less


Less than 7

Take Action

7 or more

How often do I need an A1C test?

Ask for an A1C test at least twice a year. Get the test more often if your blood glucose stays too high or if your treatment plan changes.

Why should I check my blood glucose?

Self-monitoring of blood glucose, or SMBG, with a meter helps you see how food, physical activity, and medicine affect your blood glucose levels. The readings you get can help you manage your diabetes day-by-day or even hour-by-hour. Keep a record of your test results and review it at each visit with your healthcare team.

How do I test my own blood glucose?

To test your own blood glucose, you use a tiny drop of blood and a meter to get a measurement or reading.  Ask your healthcare team to show you how to use the meter.  

What is a good self-testing blood glucose goal?

Set your personal goals with your healthcare team. Blood and plasma glucose goals for most people with diabetes are on these charts.


Meter Readings

Before meals


After meals

Less than 180

How often should I check my blood glucose?

Self-tests are usually done before meals, after meals, and at bedtime. People who take insulin usually need to test more often than those who do not take insulin. Ask your healthcare team when and how often you need to check your blood glucose.

If I test my own blood glucose, do I still need the A1C test?

Yes. The results of both tests help you and your healthcare team to manage your diabetes and get a complete picture of your diabetes control.

How do blood glucose self-testing results compare with A1C test results?

Here is a chart from the American Diabetes Association to show you how your blood glucose testing results are likely to match up with your A1C results. As the chart shows, the higher your self-testing numbers are over a 3-month period, the higher your A1C result is going to be.

A1C level

Average blood glucose over 3 months