What Does HbA1c Mean, And What is a Normal Range?

Published on 
April 2, 2024
February 2, 2024
Virta Health
Virta Health
Virta Health

Talk to any person with diabetes and you’ll soon hear a strange string of letters: HbA1c. HbA1c or Hemoglobin A1c is a blood test showing what percentage of red blood cells have glucose molecules (or blood sugar) attached to them. If your HbA1c number is low, you are in the normal: creep above a certain number, and you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. 

Here’s the good news. Thanks to Virta Health, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes can be reversed, bringing your HbA1c back down to a normal level through healthy lifestyle changes in a medical setting. But first, let’s answer a few questions: what is a normal hemoglobin A1c level? What is the normal HbA1c level? And what level of HbA1c is considered diabetes?

What is a normal HbA1c level?

An HbA1c level below 5.7 (or 5.7%) means that your blood glucose level is normal. Having less than 5.7% of red cells coated with glucose is optimal for your metabolic health. A person with an HbA1c level below 5.7 will likely not show any signs or symptoms of diabetes or prediabetes. If your HbA1c level is below 5.7, you should continue to try to make healthy lifestyle choices to avoid the chances of eventually developing diabetes.

What is the HbA1c level associated with prediabetes?

An HbA1c level between 5.7 (or 5.7%) and 6.4% means that your blood glucose level is elevated. Having between 5.7% and 6.4% of red cells coated with glucose is not normal. A rate of between 5.7 and 6.4 means you are in the prediabetes range, along with approximately 98 million other adults in the United States. You should consult with your health provider to reduce your blood sugar before developing type 2 diabetes.

What signs and symptoms are associated with prediabetes? 

A person with an HbA1c level between 5.7 and 6.4 will not necessarily show any signs or symptoms of prediabetes. 

That doesn't mean that prediabetes is a benign condition. Heart disease risk is elevated even for someone with an HbA1c level of 5.7. Occasionally, an individual with a prediabetes diagnosis will experience diabetes-related complications such as a retinal bleed, neuropathy or even a stroke. However, this is rare. 

The silent and insidious nature of prediabetes is why anyone with an HbA1c level of between 5.7 and 6.4 should immediately take action to improve their metabolic health. 

What does an HbA1c level above 6.5 mean?

An HbA1c level of 6.5 (or 6.5%) or higher means you have diabetes. Having more than 6.5% of red cells coated with glucose puts you in the diabetic range, along with ~37 million other adults in the United States. You should consult with your health provider to reduce your blood sugar, and consider joining Virta to improve your metabolic health and potentially reverse your type 2 diabetes diagnosis. 

What signs and symptoms are associated with an HbA1c level above 6.5?

Signs and symptoms of an HbA1c level above 6.5 are the same associated with type 2 diabetes, and may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased thirst and dry mouth
  • Increased urination
  • Frequent vaginal or urinary infections
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Increased hunger
  • Neuropathy (numbness, tingling in feet and hands)
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections
  • Weight gain

What can I do to lower my HbA1c?

If you have an HbA1c level of 5.7 or higher, Virta can help you get back down into a normal range. By making healthy lifestyle changes in a medical setting to reduce your carbohydrate intake, manage your stress and sleep levels, quit and limit alcohol consumption, Virta can help you regain control of your blood sugar and feel like yourself again. See if you’re eligible for Virta Health here.

Are you living with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or unwanted weight?

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