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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