Hemoglobin A1c, also known as HbA1c or Glycohemoglobin, is a form of hemoglobin that has glucose attached to it. The HbA1c test measures your average blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. It gives you and your doctor a good idea of how well your diabetes treatment plan is working.
Keeping your HbA1c at healthy levels is important for preventing diabetes complications like nerve damage, kidney disease, vision problems, and heart disease. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a normal A1c level is below 5.7%, prediabetes is 5.7% to 6.4%, and diabetes is 6.5% or higher.
If your A1c is higher than your target range, don’t worry – there are proven ways to lower it. In this article, we’ll discuss 7 tips to help reduce your hemoglobin A1c.
What Is Hemoglobin A1C Levels?
Hemoglobin is the protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen. As red blood cells circulate through your body, they pick up glucose (sugar) from your bloodstream. The glucose becomes attached to the hemoglobin, forming glycated hemoglobin or hemoglobin A1c.
The more glucose in your blood, the more hemoglobin becomes glycated. By measuring your A1c, your doctor gets an idea of your average blood sugar over the previous 8-12 weeks. The higher your A1c level, the poorer your blood sugar control has been.
Some key points about A1c testing:
- It’s recommended that people with diabetes have the A1c test 2-4 times per year.
- Home A1c test kits are available but may not be as accurate as lab tests. Always confirm home test results with your doctor.
- The A1c test result (reported as a percentage) does not indicate your blood sugar level at the time of testing.
- Test results can vary slightly between labs, so it’s best to have the test done at the same lab each time.
- Certain medical conditions like anemia can impact A1c test accuracy.
How To Lower Your Hemoglobin A1C Levels?
Here are 7 effective strategies to help lower your A1c:
✔️ Monitor Your Blood Sugar Regularly
Checking your blood sugar levels on a regular basis allows you to see how well your management plan is working. Aim to check your blood sugar levels at least 3-4 times per day. Keep a log of your results and discuss them with your doctor.
More frequent monitoring may be recommended if you are taking insulin or have erratic blood sugar levels. Work with your doctor to determine a checking schedule that works for you.
✔️ Follow Your Medication Regimen
If you have been prescribed medication to manage your diabetes, it is crucial to take it exactly as directed. Diabetes pills and insulin help keep blood sugar levels in check, but only if you use them properly. Don’t adjust your dosing or stop medication without medical supervision.
✔️ Watch Your Carb Intake
Carbohydrates have the biggest impact on blood sugar levels. To lower your A1c, you may need to limit concentrated carbs that can spike your blood sugar.
Work with a dietitian to plan meals and carb counts that fit your blood sugar targets. Focus on getting carbs from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy.
✔️ Increase Physical Activity
Exercise can directly reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate activity like brisk walking. Going for a walk after meals helps lower blood sugar spikes.
In addition to aerobic exercise, include strength training and stretching to improve insulin response. Work with your doctor to develop an exercise routine that suits your needs and abilities.
✔️ Lose Excess Weight
Carrying excess body weight contributes to insulin resistance. Losing even 5-10% of your current weight can improve blood sugar control and reduce your A1c.
Choose a healthy eating plan focused on portion control and nutrition. Increase your physical activity as you reduce calories. Losing weight slowly and consistently is key.
✔️ Manage Stress
Chronic stress causes your body to produce hormones that increase blood sugar levels. Finding healthy ways to manage mental and emotional stress is important.
Relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and visualization help calm the stress response. Talk therapy and support groups can help reduce stress as well.
✔️ Get Plenty of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can disrupt your blood sugar control. Aim for 7-8 hours per night, and try to keep a regular sleep-wake schedule. If you have sleep apnea or insomnia, get treatment to improve your sleep quality.
Keeping your A1c in a healthy range requires diligent self-care and consistent blood sugar monitoring. Work closely with your healthcare providers to find the combination of lifestyle changes and medication that works best for you. Diabetes management is a team effort.
Lowering your A1c by even 1% can dramatically reduce your risk of diabetes complications. Use the 7 proven tips in this article to improve your blood sugar control and prevent issues down the road. Small steps lead to big rewards.
A1c levels above 8% increase your risk of developing dangerous complications related to diabetes like nerve damage, kidney disease, blindness, and cardiovascular disease. Work closely with your doctor to lower your A1c if it is 8% or higher.
It takes 2-3 months for your A1c level to reflect new management efforts. If you make diet, exercise, and medication changes, you should see gradual A1c improvements at your next test. Focus on consistent self-care to see your hard work pay off.
Some people are able to reduce A1c levels through lifestyle changes alone, like losing weight, improving diet, exercising more, reducing stress, and sleeping better. However, many people require oral medications or insulin to lower their A1c into the target range. Work with your doctor.