Published April 20th, 2020 by USA Rx
If you’re one of the 34.2 million Americans suffering from diabetes, lowering your A1C should be high on your priority list. Nearly 10.5 percent of the population has diabetes, including 26.8 million people who have been diagnosed and an estimated 7.3 million who are undiagnosed. Keeping your A1C levels in check is critical to prevent complications of diabetes and live a healthy life. If you’re interested in finding out how to lower your A1C, we have ten great tips to help.
Diabetes is a condition that causes our bodies not to properly process the food we use as energy. The majority of our food is turned into glucose, a type of sugar, which allows our bodies to easily use it for energy. Our pancreas is responsible for making a hormone called insulin that helps our cells absorb glucose for energy. However, people with diabetes either do not make enough insulin or do not use their own insulin properly, which causes a buildup of sugar in the blood. The cause of diabetes depends on which type of diabetes you have: type 1 or type 2.
Doctors and scientists are not entirely sure of the cause of type 1 diabetes. However, researchers do understand that the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in our pancreas that produce insulin, leaving diabetic individuals with little or no insulin and causing sugar to build up in the bloodstream. Scientists believe that type 1 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The American Diabetes Association estimates that about 1.6 million Americans, including 187,000 children and adolescents, have type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when your cells start resisting the action of insulin and your pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to overcome the effect, thus causing sugar to build up in the bloodstream. Type 2 diabetes is more commonly linked to environmental and lifestyle factors than type 1 diabetes, but scientists believe genetic and environmental factors both play an important role. People who are overweight are at a significantly higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, although it is possible to have type 2 diabetes without being overweight.
When it comes to understanding your risk for diabetes, the A1C test is considered the “most valuable player” in terms of testing options for physicians. A1C tests are blood tests that are capable of identifying prediabetes, which means you are at a reduced risk of developing Type II diabetes down the road, and it can also be used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes and are working to manage your condition, the A1C test can tell how well your treatment is working overtime.
Your A1C test measures your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. Specifically, your A1C is a measure of what percentage of your hemoglobin (a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen) is glycated or coated with sugar. Your risk for developing diabetes or diabetes complications increases the higher that your A1C number is. Prediabetic patients should have their A1C checked once a year, while patients that have their type 2 diabetes under control should generally have their A1C levels checked twice per year. People with type 1 diabetes or those with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes or who use insulin to control their diabetes should be checked four times per year. People who are struggling to manage their condition may be checked more frequently.
The normal range for A1C is 5.7 percent; patients with an A1C below 5.7 percent are not considered at risk for developing diabetes. People with an A1C between 5.7 percent and 6.5 percent are considered prediabetic, meaning they are at high risk for developing diabetes in the future unless substantial lifestyle changes are made. Patients with an A1C of 6.5 percent or greater, measured twice, are considered diabetic. An A1C level above eight percent indicates that a patient’s diabetes is not well controlled and the patient is at a higher risk of developing complications from diabetes.
When it comes to setting goals for an A1C target number, there is no “perfect number” for diabetic patients when it comes to setting a target level for your A1C after being diagnosed with diabetes. Target levels for diabetic patients vary depending on the patient’s age and other factors, so targets may vary from person to person. However, in general, most adult patients diagnosed with diabetes should aim for an A1C of less than seven percent.
When a patient’s A1C numbers are too high, they are at risk of developing complications of diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can have life-threatening consequences; diabetes was the direct cause of death for 83,564 people in 2017, making it the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes was mentioned as a contributing cause of death in 270,702 death certificates during the same year, and it is estimated that diabetes is underreported as a cause of death. Long term diabetic complications develop gradually and can eventually become disabling or life-threatening if not controlled. Possible complications include:
It’s important to lower your A1C in order to reduce your risk of developing complications from diabetes, but achieving lower A1C levels won’t happen overnight. Lowering your A1C will require a lifestyle change along with other aspects of an overall diabetes management plan, but it is possible. Here are ten tips for how to lower your A1C.