From the CSFA Health, Wellness & Benefit Committee
We often hear about the A1c test, but just what is it, and why is it important to overall health. The A1c is a blood test your doctor may order at least twice a year, or more often if needed. A1C tests measure average blood glucose over the past two to three months. So even if you have a high fasting blood sugar, your overall blood sugar may be normal, or vice versa. A level of 5.7 to 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes. People with diabetes have an A1c level of 6.5 percent or above. If you’re in the early stages of diabetes, small changes in lifestyle can make a big difference and may put your diabetes in remission.
Losing a few pounds or starting an exercise program can help. For those who have had prediabetes or diabetes for a long time, higher A1c results may be a sign that you need to start on medication or change what you’re already taking. You may also need to make other lifestyle changes and monitor your daily blood glucose more closely. Why is this test important?
Your red blood cells have hemoglobin that carries oxygen from your lungs to cells all over your body. Glucose goes into your red blood cells and coats molecules of hemoglobin. The more glucose you have in your blood, the more coated hemoglobin molecules you have. The A1c test measures how much of your hemoglobin is coated with sugar. The higher your level, the greater your chance for problems down the road. It means your blood sugar control plan isn’t working at its best. If your blood sugar is too high for too long, it can cause serious health problems. It’s something to be careful of whether you have diabetes or not.
How high is too high?
Your doctor will tell you what your target range should be, and what to do if your levels aren’t in that range. If you have diabetes, you’ll need to check your blood sugar, also called glucose, to know if it’s too high, too low, or meets your goal. The problems that high blood sugar can cause happen over time. The sooner you get your levels back in line, the better. What High Blood Sugar Feels Like – Feeling thirstier than usual, blurred vision, having to urinate more often, feeling hungrier than normal, numb, or tingling feet. You might also feel more tired than usual, get infections on your skin, or notice that cuts and sores take a long time to heal. Tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Let’s look at some ways to lower your A1C. Start by making changes to what you eat. When you watch your diet because you have diabetes, you’ll want to pay special attention to carbohydrates, because they can affect your blood sugar level faster than protein or fat. Drinking alcohol can cause your blood sugar to rise which can lead to other health problems. Ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian who can work with you on an eating plan for you and your family. Your dietitian can help you plan meals with foods you and your family like and that are good for you. MOVE your body – walk, bike, get outside and get some exercise. Getting active is especially good for people with diabetes because: It helps keep your weight down. Your insulin may lower your blood sugar more easily. It helps your heart and lungs work better. Exercise gives you more energy. Before you start, talk with your doctor. If you have high blood pressure or eye problems, some exercises like weightlifting may not be safe. Type 2 diabetes can seem overwhelming at times, but you can take control back. It helps to have people who encourage you and show you new ways to manage your diabetes day to day. Put them on your go-to list, and reach out any time you need their insight and motivation. For this reason, I encourage modifications to diet and exercise to be a family endeavor. Be each other’s support. Of course, rely on professionals for guidance and instruction, but being there for each other in the family makes the lifestyle changes easier to deal with. A little effort leads to a healthier life.