What is A1c?
Your A1C is a test for blood glucose that provides information showing your average blood sugar levels over the past three months. Your healthcare provider uses this number to determine how things are going and if and how to tweak your diabetic treatment plan. For most diabetics, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends an A1C score of less than 7%. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) advises a closer goal of 6.5% or lower. Your goal may be completely different, and that is completely okay.
How to test your A1c
Your healthcare provider should test your A1c levels regularly (usually every 3-6 months). The doctor simply pricks your finger, or ear if you prefer, and takes a small blood sample. If your doctor’s office has an A1c kit, you should be able to get your results that same day.
If you would rather perform the test yourself, you can purchase a home A1c kit (no prescription required) and do the test yourself. Home A1c kits can be especially useful if you don’t visit your doctor at least once every three months.
These A1c home kits are mostly accurate within plus/minus 0.5 percentage points, which is more than sufficient to give you a trustworthy result. The drawback of the home test kits is that they require a larger amount of blood (four large drops) than a regular blood glucose test, and if you do not apply enough blood, you will get an error message which will void that test strips all together.
Why lower your A1C?
It is significant to understand that your A1C levels reflect an average of your blood sugar numbers. Your A1C levels might be around 6.6%, but that could be due to having a lot of low blood sugars. Because of this, your A1C levels should be considered as part of the picture, and not in seclusion. Your blood sugar readings, frequentness of highs and lows, and quality of life need to be thought of as a major part of your overall diabetic maintenance plan.
How long does it take to lower your A1C blood levels?
Unlike your blood sugar, which can escalate up or down in just a matter of a few minutes, your A1C will take more time to change. Remember that your A1C measures your average blood sugars over the past three months. Now, the good news is that if your A1C is on the high side, let's say 10.5% or higher, it will most likely start to decrease within two to three months (the higher it is, the quicker it comes down). Now, on the other hand, if your A1C is 7.8%, it may take a little longer to lower your A1C levels.
Several ways to lower your A1C levels
There are a number of ways to get your A1C down. Taking medication is one way, but lifestyle measures are also effective. Here is a list of what can work..
What and how much you eat is a large factor in what affects your blood sugar and, in turn, affects your A1C. There is a lot of controversy about the best “diet” for diabetes and there is no shortfall of arguments on the topic. Although, know there is no one specific “diet” that will work for everyone. Even with popular belief, the American Diabetes Association does not prescribe any one type of an eating plan. In fact, they say many kinds of eating habits, including lower carb, vegetarian, DASH and Mediterranean can be greatly beneficial. A good way to figure this all out is to see a certified dietitian, preferably one who is experienced in working with diabetics. Your medical provider can give you a referral to meet with a dietitian. Meanwhile, consider the following for lowering your A1C levels:
1. Come up with a plan.
Getting into a routine of eating three meals a day, plus some additional snacks, is an effective way to get started on controlling A1C levels. Additionally, trying to keep a consistent schedule for eating your meals each day will make it easier to control your blood sugar. It is important to not skip any meals or set back eating your meals as much as possible.
2. Watch portions
Overeating carbs is one thing; having too much protein or fat is another. Make sure to watch your portions of all of the different foods you eat, specifically if you're trying to shed some weight. Using the plate method or sample menus are a couple of good ways to help you get on track with a healthy eating plan.
We are all bombarded with messages to get out and be physically active, and after some time, it’s easy to shut them out. But if your number one goal is to lower that A1C, it’s time to pay attention. Yes, carb counting and losing weight helps this, but make sure not to bypass the importance of physical activity as well. Exercise provides many health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, weight loss, enhanced energy, and a lower risk of stress & depression. Also, do not forget to add lower blood sugars to the list.
3. Come up with a plan.
If you have not exercised or been active for some time, you may be pondering how to get started. The first step is to think about what activity you would like to do. One of the best ways to get moving is to just start walking. All you need is a good pair of shoes and a bit of motivation. However, riding a bike, swimming, using an exercise video or taking a Pilates class, for example, are all great ways to be physically active.
4. Dedicate 2.5 hours each week.
One of the reasons people do not start exercising is because they think they need to spend hours at the gym, sweating and puffing away. That is not true. The goal is to focus on doing at least 2.5 hours of any physical activity each week, or 30 minutes, five days of the week. Now the best part is you can break those 30 minutes into 10-minute portions, three times a day. If you haven’t exercised in a while, that is fine, just start slowly and then build up, a few minutes at a time. Before doing any new physical activities make sure to check with your physician.
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