Checking your blood sugar daily can help you in understanding your present condition. This is why it is often said to check your HbA1c levels every three to six months to see your average sugar levels on a long-term basis.
What is HbA1c?
Commonly used in the world of diabetes, HbA1c is a measure that shows the average percentage of sugar levels in your body. When the hemoglobin (a protein present in the red blood cells that carry oxygen) present in the body joins with glucose in the blood, the blood becomes glycated or is known as glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c). HbA1c is also known as hemoglobin A1c or simply A1c.
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There is a direct relationship between the glucose in the body and hemoglobin. The higher the sugar levels, the more hemoglobin it binds. And since the red blood cells live for around four months, the A1c levels help in giving an average result.
Understanding A1c levels
As mentioned above, HbA1c levels are measured in percentage. The higher the percentage, the greater the risk and complications. The HbA1c levels can also be called average glucose or eAG. Although eAG corresponds to HbA1c as both measures a person’s average 3-month blood sugar levels, it is measured in milligrams per deciliter(mg/dl).
Here are the values of HbA1c and eAG levels to give you a better understanding:
|HbA1c value||eAG value||Diagnosis|
|5.6% or less||117 mg/dl or less||Normal|
|6.5% or more||137 mg/dl||Diabetes|
Please note a person with prediabetes will have a fair chance to reverse the condition by simply managing his/her condition. Also, the values provided can vary on an individual basis. For instance, people with advanced diabetes will have different HbA1c levels to achieve than non-diabetics. Moreover, factors such as medical history, treatment response, and expectancy can also impact levels.
|HbA1c value||eAG value||Target level|
|5.6% or below||117 mg/dl or below||Non-diabetics|
|6.5%||140 mg/dl||People with short-term diabetes, managed type 2 diabetes, no cardiovascular disease, long life expectancy.|
|7% or less||154 mg/dl or less||Most women without diabetes and are not expecting|
|8% or less||183 mg/dl or less||People with advanced diabetes, have health complications and have a poor treatment response.|
Why is HbA1c important?
According to multiple studies, an increase in average sugar levels has shown a direct relationship with health complications. According to a study, detecting HbA1c levels helped in:
- Reduction of eye disease risk by 76%.
- The risk of kidney disease is reduced by 50%.
- Nerve disease risk is reduced by 60%.
- The risk of any cardiovascular disease is reduced by 42%.
- Nonfatal heart attack, stroke, or risk of death from cardiovascular causes is reduced by 57%.
This is why it is essential to lower your HbA1c levels to focus on long-term health.
How to test your A1c Levels?
The test to detect your A1c levels is quite easy and simple. In general, your diabetes educator or endocrinologist checks your hemoglobin A1c every 3-6 months. The doctor simply pricks your finger to get your blood sample. If he/she has the kit, the results can be given at the same time.
You can also test yourself by simply buying an A1c kit. This is advisable when you haven’t seen the doctor in more than three months and need to monitor the A1c levels. Please note there can be a change of plus/minus 0.5 percentage points inaccuracy. Moreover, home kits require more blood than a regular blood test. And, if you are unable to apply enough blood for the first time, the strip becomes a waste.
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7 Effective Ways to Lower your HbA1c Levels
Diabetes is not a tough condition to manage unless you treat it as a job. With proper effort and time, you can result in good control and improve your quality of life. All you need to do is focus on reaching your A1c target level and make lifestyle changes accordingly.
Here are seven effective ways to lower your HbA1c levels:
- Eat a balanced diet (especially limit your carbs intake)
It is okay to include food items that are high in carbohydrates as long as you are balancing them out with fruits and vegetables with high nutrient content. You can opt out of processed or canned foods as much as possible. Moreover, it is best to avoid sugary sodas and packed fruit juices. Carbohydrates are harmful to you as they cause spikes in your blood glucose levels.
Here are a few dietary tips that will help you in lowering A1c levels:
➔ Always keep in mind the portion size.
➔ Make sure you eat regularly, every 3-5 hours.
➔ Plan your meals ahead of time to avoid last-minute cravings.
➔ As mentioned above, it is okay to gulp in carbohydrates. However, make sure you spread the intake throughout the day.
➔ Consult a diabetes educator/dietician for a customised diet plan.
- Develop a schedule and stick to it
It is essential to create a plan before you think of achieving a target. For instance, if you don’t have a meal plan, you might let too much time between your meals or skip your meals altogether. This is going to affect your sugar levels adversely. Therefore, it is vital to develop a schedule.
Crafting a personalized plan is the first step toward taking care of your health. This includes healthy eating, being active, and staying ahead of unexpected events. For example, if you miss a meal and have a flight to catch that eventually gets delayed, your blood glucose may drop significantly. This is why it is important to plan everything and keep a bag of food items in your packing bag.
It is normal to make mistakes, but what is important is what you learn from it. It is best to carry a journal to note down any incident where there was a fluctuation in your blood sugars and discuss it with your educator later.
Stick to your treatment plan
Diabetes is a condition that is progressive in nature. Although it can’t be cured, it can surely be managed by making small lifestyle changes. Therefore, it is important to stick to your treatment plans and stay motivated.
Sticking to a schedule will not only make you stress-free but will also improve your HbA1c levels significantly over time. One of the main problems with sticking to a plan is when it becomes difficult to spread the work throughout the schedule. This is why it is advisable to set short term and long-term goals.
Include physical activity to your routine
Include any form of physical activity in your routine. This can be something you like, such as dancing, walking in the park, badminton, or more. In fact, activities such as gardening, household chores, or any routine activities can be a part of your physical activity. According to studies, it is advised to do 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.
Physical activity not only makes your bones strong but also helps to avoid diabetes complications. Here are a few ways of how exercise can help in improving your health:
➔ Lowers blood glucose, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides
➔ Helps in relieving stress
➔ Lowers the risk of heart complications
➔ Improves blood circulation
Please note it is important to make an achievable plan to stay motivated. Choose one or two things you would like to get started on.
Monitor your sugar levels regularly
This is a no-brainer. Your HbA1c levels are an average of your last 3-month blood sugar levels. However, this must not stop you from checking your sugar levels normally. Keep a glucometer handy to make sure you can test your sugar levels anytime, anywhere. Checking your sugar levels will help you:
➔ Assess how well you’re achieving your overall treatment goals.
➔ Understand how diet and exercise affect glucose levels.
➔ Assess how other factors(illness/stress) affect your blood sugar levels.
➔ Monitor the effect of medications on blood sugar levels.
Track your progress
Keep track of your activity. As mentioned above, it is important to keep a journal where you write down everything. This will help you keep you on your target and find out what works best for you. This could be a notebook, spreadsheet, calendar, or spreadsheet to record your progress. It will also help you to track your mental progress and positivity.
Involve others to stay motivated
We understand the difficulty of staying motivated as the process to see a significant improvement in blood sugar levels takes time. This is where you must reach out to your friends and family with whom you can discuss your goals and achievements. Moreover, there are groups formed by diabetics to encourage and motivate each other in the transformation process.
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Testing the glycated hemoglobin levels in the body helps in understanding an overall picture of the average blood sugar levels. This is of extreme importance for people with diabetes to avoid diabetes complications. Although it is crucial to maintain HbA1c, please note it does not monitor the daily fluctuations in blood glucose levels. Moreover, it is not the right measure to be used to adjust insulin doses or to detect hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia in day-to-day lives.