What is A1C Test?
A1C is a blood test that is done to diagnose diabetes in a patient and also to check how well the patient is managing his/her diabetes if already diagnosed with it. A1C gives information regarding the patient’s average blood sugar levels over a period of 2 to 3 months. The score of A1C test is indicated in percentage. The greater the percentage of A1C, the higher will be the average blood glucose level and the higher is the risk for diabetes or its related complications. A1C test cannot be used for gestational diabetes. However, A1C test is helpful in predicting the likelihood of someone getting diabetes.
How Beneficial is the A1C Test?
The A1C test measures the amount of sugar or glucose which is attached to the hemoglobin in red blood cells. The more the percentage of the glucose attached, the higher will be the level of A1C.
A1C is a groundbreaking test as this test:
- Doesn’t need fasting.
- Gives an average picture of blood sugar levels over a period 2 to 3 months.
- And this test can be done at any time of the day.
How Long Does it Take to Lower A1C Levels?
The average life span of red blood cells (RBCs) and hemoglobin is 120 days. During this period the glucose molecules are exposed to the RBCs which result in formation of glycated hemoglobin. So, theoretically any change in the A1C levels won’t be obvious for at a minimum of 120 days which is the time taken for the affected red blood cells to complete a life cycle. The time taken to lower the A1C level also depends on the target level of the patient. If the A1C level of the patient is in double digits, then it can take around 2 to 3 months to lower the A1C level given that the patient strictly adheres to the management plan of his diabetes.
What Do the Scores of A1C Indicate?
A normal A1C score should be below 5.7 percent.
A1C which is in between 5.7 and 6.4 percent indicates that the patient is prediabetic. Being prediabetic places the patient at risk for developing type 2 diabetes in 10 years. However, steps can be taken to prevent or delay the progression from prediabetes to diabetes. If test is positive for prediabetes, then patient should get re-tested every year.
If the A1C score is 6.5 percent or more, then it indicates that the patient has type 2 diabetes. Patient should try and keep the A1C levels below 7 percent to prevent the complications of diabetes.
What are the Ways to Lower A1C?
The level of the A1C can be lowered by making some small changes to the diet, exercise regimen, medication and patient’s overall lifestyle. Given below are some simple ways to lower the A1C level:
Short Sessions of Moderate to High Intensity Exercise: According to studies, patients with type 2 diabetes who did about 15 minutes of exercise thrice a day for about 5 days a week at 85% of their target heart rate were successfully able to lower their A1C levels when compared to patients who exercised for about 30 minutes a day at 65% of target heart rate. However, it is important to consult your doctor before trying any high intensity exercise and always wear a heart rate monitor to prevent from overdoing it. If the patient is not used to any type of exercise, then it is recommended that patient start slowly for about 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking then increase the time and intensity. Regular exercise is a sure shot way to lower the A1C level.
Consuming Whole Foods: Eating whole foods, such as vegetables and fruits, instead of juices help a lot in preventing your blood sugar level from spiking. When whole foods are consumed, such as an orange or an apple then the patient is consuming fiber, which helps in slowing down the speed at which the body absorbs the sugar. If you take fruit juice instead of a whole fruit then there is zero fiber in it which causes the sugar to go straight into the bloodstream. Additional benefit is that the fiber present in whole foods helps in retaining the feeling of being full longer which leads to less overeating.
Use a Small Plate for Cutting Down Portion Size: Using a small plate for meals instead of a bigger one can trick your mind and eyes into thinking that you are eating more than you actually are. This will create a feeling of satisfaction with lesser amount of food, especially in case of starchy foods. For example, one-cup serving of pasta looks very less on a plate, however, it fills up a small bowl and makes us think that we have eaten sufficient amount of food. So, controlling the quantity of food which you eat helps in bringing your A1C levels under control.
Getting Enough Sleep; No Less, No More! According to studies, long or short periods of sleep were associated with increased levels of A1C regardless of diet, physical activity, obesity or any depressive symptoms. Getting very less sleep or sleeping for long hours is associated with increased risk for high level of A1C. However, the quality of sleep was not studied in this research.
Dropping the Pounds: If the patient is overweight, then losing the excess pounds by following a healthy diet and exercise regime goes a long way in lowering the A1C level.
Putting it on Paper: Maintaining a journal of results of home blood testing and writing down the time of meals and the type of meals taken, with the time and duration and type of exercise or and how the patient has felt before and after all of these etc. etc. is important, as all this information helps not only the patient, but also the doctor in determining how the blood sugar levels are affected by the patient’s diet and lifestyle. Thus, writing in a journal makes it easy to make appropriate changes in improving the management plan of A1C levels.