9 Tips to Lower Your A1c Level

When you have diabetes, you probably know that you need to check your blood sugar regularly. Your doctor will also recommend that you take an A1c blood test several times a year, with the goal of reducing the results to help protect your health. And there is a lot you can do to achieve this goal.

Unlike a regular blood sugar test, the A1c test measures the amount of sugar that sticks to a protein, called hemoglobin, in your red blood cells. The test shows your average blood sugar levels over the past few months, letting you know how well your diabetes is under control.

Generally, the goal for your A1c is to be below 7%. The exact amount will depend on your individual treatment plan. When you take steps to keep your A1c within a healthy range, you reduce your risk of complications such as nerve damage, eye problems and heart disease.

Your doctor will tell you the best target for your A1c. How do you get there? Here are some tactics to try, in addition to taking the medications prescribed by your doctor.

Get some new kitchen equipment. You’ll want to get a set of measuring cups and a kitchen scale if you don’t already have them. These will help you with your portion sizes. Your blood sugar will rise if you eat more food than your body needs. Portion control is a good way to lower your HbA1c levels.

At first, it’s a good idea to measure your food to give you an idea of ​​healthy portion sizes for different foods. This is where measuring cups and scales come in handy. At first, you may be surprised at what a serving size looks like, especially those of high-carb foods like cereal, rice, and pasta. But it will help you not to eat more than planned.

Be smart about your carbs. It’s true that carbohydrates affect your blood sugar more than other nutrients you eat. Chances are, if you regularly eat too many starchy foods, your HbA1c levels will start to rise. But remember, not all carbs are problematic. You want ones that contain lots of fiber and nutrients, more than those that simply contain starch.

Adjust your plate. Experts advise filling about half your plate with low-starch vegetables, such as carrots, green vegetables, zucchini or tomatoes. A quarter of your plate should be lean proteins like chicken or tofu, and the last quarter should be whole grains like brown rice or quinoa.

Make a plan. Guidelines for what to put on your plate give you a lot of flexibility. But even though it seems simple, you’ll probably do better if you plan your meals. For what? If you skip set menus and eat on the fly, it’s easy to end up with high-calorie, high-carb food choices—like fast food, bagels, and frozen pizza—that will send your blood sugar skyrocketing and your HbA1c level. .

Instead, at the start of each week, make a rough plan of what foods you will eat at each meal and what groceries you will need. This way, you’ll be prepared with plenty of choices that will limit blood sugar spikes after meals. A Mediterranean diet, low in saturated fat and rich in fruits and vegetables, reliably reduces HbA1c levels.

Maybe reduce your weightloss aim. Not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight. But if that’s the case, you may not need to drop as much as you think to make a difference in your HbA1c level.

If you are overweight, diabetic doctors will often recommend that you try to lose just 5 to 10 percent of your current weight. Here’s why: As you lose extra pounds, the insulin in your body lowers your blood sugar levels more effectively, which will cause your A1c levels to drop over time. In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who lost 5 to 10 percent of their body weight were three times more likely to reduce their HbA1c levels by 0.5 percent.

You may have a different weight goal or other health considerations in mind. Ask your doctor to help you develop a weight loss plan that fits your overall goals.

Rethink your exercise plan. Besides improving your diet, exercise is one of the most important habit changes you can make to lower your HbA1c levels. But don’t just work out on the treadmill, or you’ll miss out on another effective workout: strength training.

No offense to the elliptical machine or your cycling class. You can choose the type of exercise you prefer, as long as it is a challenging workout. Aerobic exercise and resistance training (weight training) lower HbA1c levels if part of a regular routine.

There is solid scientific data showing how exercise helps you lower your HbA1c levels. Because exercise causes your muscles to absorb sugar from your blood, it helps your blood sugar levels drop more quickly after a meal. As you make exercise a regular habit, you will see a downward trend in your HbA1c levels.

Never miss your medications. You can reliably lower your HbA1c levels through diet and exercise. But if your doctor has prescribed medications such as metformin, miglitol, or insulin, it’s important to take them exactly as prescribed. If you regularly miss doses, your blood sugar may rise and cause your A1c to rise. But if you follow the medication regimen recommended by your doctor and go to every appointment, your blood sugar should stay in control — and your lower A1c will reflect that. If your goal is to reduce or even stop taking your medications, tell your doctor that you want to achieve this. But don’t stop them yourself.

Be warned supplements. Many dietary supplements claim that they will lower your HbA1c levels. But there isn’t always a lot of research to support this claim. However, some may be promising. These include berberine, made from extracts from various plants, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), an antioxidant that reduces inflammation in your body. Cinnamon may also reduce HbA1c levels over time. As with any supplement, it is best to consult your doctor first.

Rehearse your plan. Stick with it and give it time. Since your A1c level reflects your average blood sugar level over several months, it will take that long for your A1c level to drop. You won’t do everything perfectly, and that’s okay. Just keep moving in the direction you want to go. And rest assured: your A1c index will decrease and it will be worth it.

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