Since our grandson was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes last June he has required his A1C levels to be checked every three months.
My daughter gets really nervous about these tests as this test tells the doctors just what our grandson’s blood glucose has been for the last two to three months and determines whether to change his treatment plan or not. Basically, it is like a report card of how well he is doing.
Let’s just dive in and learn exactly what are “A1C levels” and why are they so important to a Type 1 Diabetic.
What are “A1C” levels?
The A1C or Glycated Hemoglobin is a blood test that indicates the average blood sugar level for the past 2 – 3 months.
It measures the amount of blood sugar attached to the oxygen carrying-protein in red blood cells (hemoglobin). The higher your blood sugar the more hemoglobin you will have with blood sugar attached.
Your doctor will determine your target A1C level depending on your age and various other factors.
A1C testing indicates how well your diabetes treatment plan is working and will help the doctor determine whether or not to make adjustments to your treatment plan.
What Do These Results Mean
For a person with Type 1 Diabetes lowering A1C by just 1% means a 45% lower risk of developing the chronic complications of Diabetes. The closer to normal (<6%) the better.
If you already have some signs of complications arising having an A1C <7% could help stabilize the complications (kidney or eye disease).
How to Lower A1C Levels
You can lower your A1C levels by making changes in your diet, exercise, or medication.
Since your medication is decided by your health care team, we’ll explore the other ways to lower your A1C levels naturally.
Eat a healthy well-balanced diet with proper portion sizes. You can fill up on non-starchy vegetables, watch your serving sizes when eating fruits, lean proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, and other starches.
A good tip for choosing smaller portions is to use a salad plate rather than a dinner plate. Smaller portions will also help with weight loss if that is something your doctor recommends for you.
Don’t skip meals. Try to maintain a regular schedule for your mealtimes. Have snacks when necessary.
Try to consistently follow your treatment plan as set out by your health care team and check your blood glucose as frequently as your doctor advised you.
Get active. Strive for at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. You don’t have to head for the gym.
This could be as simple as taking your dog for a walk. Play a sport with a friend or ride a bike (stationary or outdoors).
There are countless ways to keep your body active and get daily exercise. The key is to find something you enjoy and be consistent.
How Long Does It Take To Lower A1C Levels
You might be wondering if it is possible to lower your A1C levels overnight and the answer is of course no. While your blood sugars can go up or down in a matter of minutes the A1C will take time. It is important to remember just what your A1C is. It measures your average blood sugar levels over the past three months. The good news is that if your A1C is on the high side it is possible that it could start to drop within two or three months. In other words the higher it is, the faster it will come down. However, if it is only slightly high it will take longer to come down.
The A1C test doesn’t have to be scary. I look at it as a report card, it tells you how effective your treatment plan has been over the past three months.
Once you know how your body is reacting to the treatment, you can determine little adjustments that may make it more effective.
For example, if your A1C is high then you could:
- Add some exercise into your daily routine
- Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and watch your portion sizes
- Stick to a schedule, don’t skip meals, and have snacks when necessary
- Follow the rest of your treatment plan exactly as you were told, diabetes treatment plans are highly individualized
- Check your blood sugar as directed, your doctor will tell you how often to check your blood sugar
Following these simple steps will go a long way towards helping you lower your A1C levels. Lowering your A1C levels will lower your risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
I hope this helps calm any fears about the A1C test. Understanding that test removes much of the fear at least it did for us.
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Please leave any comments or questions below. Thanks for reading.
4 thoughts on “What Is A1C Levels – Type 1 Diabetes”
My father has diabetics and if only I could get him to exercise,smoke less and eat more healthy. Your story is definitely touching, and I believe your sharing will benefit many people like my father. You have a great informative website! Definitely will bookmark for future visits!
Thanks for the comment Bee. It is very difficult for adults to make lifestyle changes. Perhaps you could suggest to your father to try one change at a time. Perhaps just try for a short walk each day. One step at a time is much less overwhelming than tackling it all at once. Thanks again and best wishes to you and your father.
Thank you for your very informative article. I have to admit I’m quite ignorant to diabetes and I shouldn’t be because I have several family members that suffer from it and in my younger years when I went for an army-test, it was identified that i could possibly be suffering from it. I was lucky and the diagnosis was incorrect.
I notice, you have highlighted that A1C target levels are usually set by your doctor and you have pointed action that can be taken if your A1C levels are too high. I wonder can your A1C levels be too low? and if so is there any action you can take to rectify this?
Thank you for your comment Lawrence.
You are not alone in not knowing a lot about Diabetes.
Even though my mother had Type 2 Diabetes, I didn’t learn about Diabetes until our grandson was diagnosed with Type 1.
To answer your questions, we first need to understand that the A1C test is measuring what your Blood Glucose Levels have averaged over the past 2 – 3 months. If your A1C is high is means your Blood Glucose has mainly been high over that 2 – 3 month period and you are at higher risk of complications.
A1C levels are not usually low because that would indicate you are not testing your blood glucose daily and correcting lows by eating fast acting sugar snacks or fruit juice.
Remaining too low could result in unconsciousness, seizures and hospitalization.
Thanks again and best wishes to and your family.