What is your A1C number?

If you have diabetes there are important numbers you need to know. One of these is your A1C number, along with knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The A1C measurement is a blood test that tells your health care provider what your daily blood glucose level has averaged over the last three months. Prior to the development of A1C testing, a health care provider would order a standard blood glucose test which measured the amount of glucose in the patient’s blood at the time the test was taken. One problem with this test was that when patients knew they were scheduled for the test, they would control the amount of carbohydrates they ate to assure a lower blood glucose level. Consequently, the test was not indicative of the ups and downs in blood glucose that the patient may have experienced.

Since the A1C measures a ratio over a three month span of time, the health care provider has a more accurate picture of how well the patient has followed their diet, exercise and medication daily plan. Patients who monitor themselves carefully may lower their risk for diabetes complications such as eye, kidney and nerve damage and lower their risk of developing heart disease and stroke. To assure that your risk for these complications remains low, your A1C should be tested at least twice a year.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following steps to reduce your A1C level:

  • Follow the healthy eating plan your health care provider or dietician has recommended. Whether you’re counting carbs or using the exchange system, careful monitoring of your daily food intake can stabilize your blood glucose level.
  • Engage in daily physical activity if you’re physically able to. This should be at least 30 minutes per day and can be as simple as taking a walk.
  • If you are taking medication follow the directions your health care provider has given you.
  • Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels if your health care provider tells you these numbers are too high.
  • If you have excess weight, set small goals to lose five to seven percent of your body weight.

Knowledge of your A1C number can lower your risk of diabetes complications and help ensure that you live a long, healthy life.

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