Every one to two years, your doctor will typically monitor your A1C levels just to be sure that your levels are not fluctuating wildly. They may also use this test to pre-determine your risks of metabolic dysfunctions.
Even without symptoms, if you have an A1C test with concerning results, your doctor may have you take a second test the same day to confirm the results.
If the results are not considered anomalous and remain consistent, it is likely that your doctor will want to discuss changes you can make to bring your results back to the normal range.
The A1C test is a blood test, which is used to test your metabolic functions.
If you have already been diagnosed with a condition consistent with abnormal metabolic functions, the test may be performed at regular intervals to monitor how well you are managing and regulating your blood sugar levels.
What is A1C?
An A1C test is also called a glycated hemoglobin test. It reflects your average blood sugar levels.
A normal level falls below 5.7%. A level that is between 5.7% and 6.4% indicates that you may be predisposed to a condition or in the early stages of developing a metabolic condition.
A1C levels that are above 6.5% indicate that a metabolic condition is present and needs to be addressed. The higher you get over 6.5%, the greater your risk of developing a metabolic condition that requires your blood sugar levels to be regulated.
Glycated hemoglobin is a form of hemoglobin that is tied to sugar. Hemoglobin is a protein that is found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout your body, and it is what gives blood its red color.
Sugar in your blood is called glucose. The suffix “-ose” is a common indicator of sugars.
Biochemistry uses this Latin suffix which means “full of” to make the names of sugars. Gluc- comes from the Greek word glukus for sweet. So, glucose literally means “full of sweets.”
You might not mind being a sweet person, but you don’t want glucose to build up in your blood.
When glucose builds up in your blood, it binds itself to the proteins (hemoglobin) in your red blood cells. The A1C test is what tells you the percentage of glucose bound to the hemoglobin in your blood.
The reason the A1C test is so effective and doesn’t have to be repeated often is that the red blood cells in your body live for about three months. If your doctor does a blood sample and tests it, a picture of your glucose levels for the past three months comes into focus.
Why Do You Need to Lower Your A1C?
Your doctor will talk with you about lowering your A1C. Your age and other health conditions will also be taken into consideration.
Your aim may not be to get to normal levels right away, but you should work towards the A1C goal that you and your doctor discussed to avoid complications like nerve damage and eye problems as a result of unregulated blood sugar levels.
How Do You Lower Your A1C?
Because managing blood sugar levels can be challenging, it is best to take multiple steps to help lower your A1C to your goal level. Addressing concerns with your metabolic functions can require making lifestyle changes, and there is rarely a quick fix as it can remain an ongoing issue for some people.
Staying active can help increase your chances of reaching and maintaining your target A1C.
As with most lifestyle changes, make changes that you can stick with. Doing things you enjoy that get you up and keep you active should be the first thing you do to incorporate exercise.
Simple activities like walking the dog, dusting off your stationary bike, taking a walk with a friend while you catch up, or playing a sport are great examples of how you can get active without feeling the exhaustion of working out.
A goal of about 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week is recommended for all adults.
As you will see, most lifestyle changes that will help you reach your A1C goals are the habits and lifestyle recommended to anyone for healthy living. Breaking your 150 minutes up throughout the week into manageable amounts of time is not only an acceptable approach, but it keeps you on a steady pace as you work at regulation.
You’ll want to get advice from your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen, but with permission, a short walk after every meal is a good way to regulate blood sugar levels.
Eat a Balanced and Properly Portioned Diet
As you might have guessed already, foods that are high in sugar contribute to your blood sugar levels.
Additionally, foods that are high in carbohydrates that don’t necessarily taste sweet can also contribute to high blood sugar levels. You may be concerned about what to eat, and for many, there’s concern that the enjoyment you get from food will be lost.
As with regular exercise, the way you’re recommended to eat is like that of any healthy lifestyle. Moderation, self-control, and a healthy dose of natural foods. Your doctor may discuss recommendations or give you some information to take home.
Oftentimes, you’ll find that you’re allowed to eat the things you enjoy, but you may be asked to limit your portions or add protein and lean fat to help you digest the carbohydrates.
Some sugary food items may need to be avoided, but your diet can still be rich and diverse.
Regulate Your Schedule, Regulate Your Life
The goal is not just to lower your A1C.
You want consistent blood sugar levels that don’t have large spikes or dips. In order to regulate your blood sugar levels, you’re going to need to regulate your schedule and regulate your life.
Planning your meals so that they’re spaced out will be the best way to keep yourself regulated and ensure that your levels stay normal. A blood sugar spike can make you feel awful, but going too long between meals can cause it to plummet to unsafe levels as well.
Talk to your doctor about your lifestyle, and devise a plan that will allow you to create a meal schedule that works for you and works towards lowering your A1C to your goal.
Manage Your Weight
Thankfully, if you’re following the other steps for lowering your A1C, managing your weight or achieving weight loss should be fairly doable. The reason weight loss will help you lower your A1C is that as you lose extra pounds, your body’s insulin lowers your blood sugar levels more efficiently.
You’ll want to ask your doctor if attempting to lose weight is right for you in your situation. You may find that when you adhere to the other recommendations, weight loss is a natural byproduct.
Your doctor may recommend that you aim to lose 5-10% of your body weight as part of an effort to gain control over your blood sugar levels and lower your A1C.
Supplement as Needed
As you work on creating a healthy lifestyle to promote a normal A1C level, you can do everything right and still need a little boost to your metabolic health.
Your doctor may have some recommendations for what supplements would help you lower, regulate, and maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Since blood sugar levels occur naturally in the body, it makes sense that there would be natural elements that can help keep blood sugar levels regular and stable. One example is cinnamon, which supports the reduction of blood glucose.
Supplements that boost your metabolic health can help you to:
- Reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes
- Encourage a healthy insulin sensitivity
- Support nerve health
- Help your other efforts succeed
As with any supplement or change to your lifestyle, it’s important to ask your doctor if it’s right for you.
Last, but certainly not least, staying hydrated can help you lower your A1C. When it comes to your blood sugar levels, water actually helps to dilute the amount of glucose in your blood.
Staying hydrated can help you maintain a healthy glucose level. The human body functions best when it’s properly hydrated. While water isn’t a cure, it definitely supports a healthy lifestyle, especially one geared at lowering your A1C.
Lowering your A1C overnight may sound like a lofty goal, but lowering it with regular exercise, a balanced and well-portioned diet, maintaining a consistent schedule, weight management, supplementing, and hydrating can all work together to support a safe and effective effort to reach your goals.
As always, it is important to talk to your doctor to find out what’s right for you and if what you're doing aligns with their recommendations. It is highly possible to regain control of your A1C numbers and keep them maintained.