9 Methods to Reduce Your A1C Levels

March 08,2023 |
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About 9% of the American population, or 30.3 million people, are currently living with diabetes. However, about 7.2 million people in this subset have yet to be diagnosed. Additionally, 84.1 million American adults are currently living with prediabetes, and are therefore at risk of developing type 2 diabetes at some point in their life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is ranked as the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. Luckily, with the right medical intervention and lifestyle changes, this can be prevented. Regular A1C testing can assist in early detection of diabetes and monitoring its progression. If you’ve already been diagnosed, your A1C results will give your doctor insight into the effectiveness of your current treatment plan. To help you live a healthy life, whether you’re currently living with diabetes or at risk for developing it in the future, consider the following ways to reduce your A1C levels.


Understanding A1C Levels

The A1C test—hemoglobin A1C, glycated hemoglobin, glycohemoglobin, or HbA1c test—is a test that measure’s an individual’s average blood glucose levels over the course of about three months. So, how does this work?

When you eat anything that has sugar, it starts to move through your digestive system so the nutrients can enter your bloodstream. Sugar in food binds to a protein called hemoglobin in your red blood cells. This occurs in everyone, including those without diabetes. It results in varying amounts of sugar-coated hemoglobin that are present in the veins and arteries. Individuals with high blood sugar have more sugar-coated hemoglobin, while individuals with low blood sugar have less. The A1C test tells you what percentage of red blood cells contain sugar-coated hemoglobin. The higher the percentage, the higher your average blood sugar concentration.

If you have prediabetes, your doctor will likely have you undergo an A1C test at least once a year to monitor for changes. People living with diabetes may need to take more frequent tests to adjust medication dosage and use.

After taking an A1C test, you’ll likely receive your results in the form of a percentage. There are three different tiers that will tell you what your numbers mean:

  • Normal A1C levels will be below 5.7%
  • A1C levels that indicate prediabetes fall between 5.7% and 6.4%
  • A1C levels diagnosing diabetes are 6.5% and above

Your doctor will help you process your results and determine the best plan of action. However, lower A1C levels are generally better, so taking steps to reduce your numbers is recommended for anyone living with diabetes or prediabetes.


9 Ways to Lower Your A1C Levels

Maintaining A1C levels below 7% is crucial for effective diabetes management. This helps to lower the risk of developing diabetes-related complications over time. If your test results indicate an A1C level above 7%, your doctor will discuss ways to modify your current management plan. Additionally, consider some of the following ways to help lower your A1C levels.


1. Choose Your Carbohydrates Wisely

Carbohydrates are often given a bad name, but they’re still important to consume. However, the type of carbs matters, especially when you’re working on lowering your A1C levels. Foods that are high in fiber are digested more slowly and can help regulate blood sugar levels. Some examples of these types of foods included whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Meanwhile, processed foods and drinks with added sugars can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Try to eat more whole, nutritious foods and check the glycemic index or food insulin index in advance.


2. Exercise Regularly

Exercise is another way to lower your A1C levels. Physical activity can help increase insulin sensitivity, which allows your body to better use insulin and regulate blood sugar levels. Plus, when you exercise, your muscles use available glucose as fuel. This can help lower your overall blood sugar levels and reduce dramatic spikes throughout the day. Exercise also stimulates insulin production, lowers stress, and helps you maintain a healthy weight—all of which are important for diabetes management. The best way to stick to a new exercise regimen is to find something you actually enjoy doing and integrate it into your schedule.


3. Focus on Diabetes-Friendly Meal Plans

There are hundreds of options online for diabetes-friendly meal plans and recipes. Spend some time doing a little research and start trying new meals. You’ll find that just because something is “diabetes-friendly” doesn’t mean it’s bland or lacking excitement. There are so many ways that you can enjoy food without causing issues with your A1C levels.


4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is another great way to help lower your A1C levels over time. This is because excess weight, particularly around the waist, can make it more difficult for the body to use insulin effectively. Losing weight can improve insulin sensitivity and help regulate blood sugar levels. Maintaining a healthy weight also helps reduce inflammation, which can improve insulin sensitivity, lower A1C levels, and may even help reverse type 2 diabetes.


5. Take Diabetes Medications as Prescribed

Always, always take your diabetes medications as prescribed by your doctor. Doing so is the best way to help reduce the risk of complications and increase longevity over time. Plus, by following a meticulous diabetes management plan, you may help lower A1C levels and decrease your need for using medication in the first place. However, never stop or alter your dosage unless advised by your doctor.


6. Be Strategic About Supplements

Several dietary supplements claim to lower A1C levels. However, their efficacy may not be well-supported by research. Despite this, some supplements such as berberine derived from plant extracts, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, and cinnamon, may offer potential benefits over time. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.


7. Stay Hydrated

Hydration is an important part of diabetes management as well. Staying hydrated can help lower A1C levels in people with diabetes or prediabetes in the following ways:

  • Regulating blood volume, which supports healthy blood flow
  • Supporting kidney function, which helps optimize glucose filtration from the blood
  • Reducing stress hormones, which lowers unnecessary blood sugar spikes throughout the day
  • Improving insulin sensitivity, which may result in a lower dependance on diabetes medications
  • Enhancing physical activity, which has several positive effects on the body

Although hydration levels vary for everyone, you should aim to produce urine that’s pale or translucent yellow in color.


8. Reduce Alcohol Intake

Alcohol can have a detrimental effect on the function of our body, regardless of if you’re living with diabetes or not. However, those with elevated A1C levels need to be particularly careful, as alcohol can impair insulin function even more. It also interferes with the liver’s ability to produce glucose, which can lead to low blood sugar levels. Although this might sound helpful, it can be extremely dangerous. On the other side, alcohol’s ingredients can also cause blood sugar levels to rise. These high spikes and low dips are dangerous and can interfere with diabetes medications and long-term care. talk to your doctor to learn more about safe alcohol consumption and how to monitor your blood sugar levels when drinking.


9. Find Ways to Manage Your Stress

Finally, when you’re stressed, your body releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which cause blood sugar levels to rise. This can be problematic for individuals with diabetes, as it can make it more difficult to manage blood sugar levels. Chronic stress can also lead to unhealthy habits such as overeating, smoking, and lack of physical activity. Additionally, stress can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult to manage infections and heal from injuries. To minimize the impact of stress on diabetes, and help lower A1C levels, it's important to practice stress-management techniques such as exercise, deep breathing, and mindfulness.

Your A1C levels can offer insight into your diabetes progression and control alongside what changes may need to be made. It's important to consult with your doctor before making any alterations to your eating or exercise plan. Avoid fad diets or extreme changes, as proper nutrient intake is crucial for overall health. Remember that regular monitoring of blood glucose levels should not be replaced by the A1C test. To simplify diabetes management and reduce risks of complications, consider using continuous blood glucose monitors from Byram Healthcare. We also provide diabetes support and educational resources for comprehensive care.