6 Ways to Lower Your A1C Level
Diabetes is a life-altering chronic disease. If diagnosed, you must deal with diabetes daily. And this means you need to make big life changes, like monitoring and lowering your A1C level.
There are two types of diabetes: insulin-dependent diabetes and non-insulin-dependent diabetes, also known as type II diabetes. By far, the majority of people have type II diabetes. This is the type of diabetes that usually occurs later in life. It is also very often correlated with lifestyle and obesity. These correlations are not always present, but generally speaking they are true.
The good thing about this correlation is that you can take advantage of lifestyle changes to affect your body’s biology. That means if you improve your lifestyle, then you can improve your diabetes control! Good diabetes control means you will be at a lower risk of complications like blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage.
Most people these days measure their diabetes control using the hemoglobin A1C test. The A1C test looks at your average blood sugar over the last three months. If your A1C is above the goal that your doctor sets, then your diabetes is in poor control. If your A1C is lower than your doctor’s goal, then your diabetes is in good control. If you’re able to make these lifestyle changes, then you will impress your doctor with your falling A1C.
A1C Levels That Are Unhealthy
Hemoglobin A1c has a history that dates back to 1958. Using it as a blood test in diabetic patients was suggested as early as 1976. You are likely to see hemoglobin A1c test results abbreviated as HbA1c, A1c and sometimes HGBA1C.
Your red blood cells live about 120 days, and the A1c test measures the amount of glucose that binds with your red blood cells during their lifespan. This process begins when blood glucose levels are elevated. Once glucose binds to your red blood cells, it stays that way during the rest of the lifespan of the red blood cells in your blood stream. This makes it easy for your doctor to tell how your treatment regimen, on average, is working for controlling high blood glucose levels, known as hyperglycemia.
The Weighted Average of the A1c Test
Unfortunately, the A1c test is not a perfect marker of how you may be responding to therapy to prevent or treat diabetes. The A1c test has a weighted average. This means that blood glucose levels closer to the actual time of the test have a greater influence on the result.
For example, if you did great in managing your diabetes over the last 2.5 months and had significant hyperglycemia (elevated blood glucose) events due to illness or medications the last two weeks before your test, your A1c test results are going to come back higher than what you would expect. This is why your doctor likely wants to see a log of blood glucose checks using a glucometer to compare with the A1c tests.
Your A1c Result Corresponds to an Average Blood Glucose Level
You may be surprised to know that your A1c result corresponds to an average blood glucose level for the last three months. Some doctors are reporting A1c test results to patients using this number. It is referred to as an eAG, which means estimated average glucose.
For example, an A1c result of 6 would indicate an average blood glucose reading of 126 mg/dl. If your blood glucose has been running very high to give you an A1c result of 10, then the eAG would be 240 mg/dl. The mg/dl stands for milligrams per deciliter, and this is the standard number glucometers use to report blood glucose results in the US.
When Your A1c Result Is Unhealthy
Your doctor is going to pick an A1c goal for you based on a number of factors. This can include your age, your overall health and your desire to control diabetes.
Non-diabetics have an A1c result below 5.7. Anything higher indicates pre-diabetes. You can expect pre-diabetes to turn into diabetes unless you take active steps to prevent it now. Understand that Type 2 diabetes is completely reversible in its early stages.
The American Diabetes Association indicates that diabetics should shoot for A1c test results of 7 or lower to be considered. At 7, the eAG would be 154. However, many doctors desire their diabetic patients seek tighter control to prevent, delay or slow complications. Therefore, some doctors may consider perfect A1c levels being at 6 or below. An A1c result of 6 corresponds to an eAG of 126.
Avoiding Unhealthy A1c Levels
Just as your A1c result is an average of how your diabetes treatment has been doing over the last three months, multiple results of your A1c test results indicate how you have been responding to treatment over many months and years.
You should know your current and last three A1c levels to have an understanding of how you have been responding to your diabetes treatment regimen over the last 12 months. This will help you work with your doctor to tailor treatment to make improvements.
Do whatever it takes to lower your A1c result. However, do not be lulled into false lowering of A1c results that can occur due to having several hypoglycemic (low blood glucose) levels nor false elevation due to temporary hyperglycemia because of illness or medications such as steroids.
Let’s look at several specific ways you can do lower your A1c levels:
- Dietary Changes
Dietary changes are probably the most important lifestyle choice you can make to affect your diabetes control. Remember, diabetes is a disease of sugar processing. With type II diabetes, your body can be overwhelmed with too much sugar. If you decrease your sugar intake, your body will have an easier time doing what it needs to.
The most effective dietary changes that you can do revolve around carbohydrates. Carbohydrates in their simplest form are sugars. So the easiest way to manage your diabetes is to decrease sugar intake. There are lots of different types of sugar that can be found in plants, however, here we are generally speaking about processed sugar that may be added by food manufacturers or by you at the table. This is the white sugar that we use in baking, or otherwise add to food and drink. This type of sugar is the most easily digested and, therefore, produces the largest and fastest glucose spike in your blood. These spikes are bad because if they happen too often they will increase your hemoglobin A1C.
The easiest way to decrease your intake of processed sugars is to decrease your desserts. It’s unfortunate, but true. Eating fewer cookies, cakes, and ice cream will improve your A1C. There’s no doubt about it.
Remember the hidden sugars too – like those in some fruits. Did you know that a banana has 14 grams of sugar? Don’t rule out all fruits, though. Citrus fruits are especially good for diabetes sufferers. Look at adding fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges to your daily diet for a dose of vitamin C and fiber.
While fat has long been held the enemy when it comes to diet and weight loss, studies are showing that it’s less an enemy than we once thought. Particularly healthy fats. So, it may make sense to start introducing fats in back into your diet if you’ve long avoided them and favored carbohydrates instead. A simple change might be replacing breakfast cereal with eggs in the morning.
- Drink Choices
The next way you can decrease your hemoglobin A1C is by changing what you drink. The best way to do this is simply by drinking more water. This is often one of the first recommendations that nutritionists give to those who are overweight.
In the United States, it’s amazing how many liquid calories we consume. Let’s take Starbucks as an example. Starbucks is one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States over the last 20 years. That’s simply because we drink so much coffee, but Starbucks does not only sell coffee. Starbucks also has sugary drinks that have up to 600 calories each. That’s potentially 30% of your daily recommended caloric intake!
Other examples of sugary drinks include soda like Coca-Cola, sweetened iced tea like Arizona Iced Tea, energy drinks like Monster, and even juices like plain old orange juice. Orange juice has about 20 g of sugar, which is already over half of what is recommended by the American Heart Association. So if you are drinking any of these things, be sure to do it in moderation.
The next way to lower your hemoglobin A1C is through exercise. Exercise is fantastic because it helps your body process sugars. When your muscles are in better shape, they are able to use the sugar in your diet much more effectively. Also, exercise uses up some of the sugar that you eat.
We all know that dieting is not always easy. That’s why exercise is so important to do in addition to dieting. The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise every week. This is why most doctors will tell you to exercise 30 minutes a day for five days a week. The best way to accomplish this is by starting a regular exercise regimen. If you create a routine exercise schedule, it will be easier for you to stick to. If you’re able to stick to your schedule, your A1C will definitely start falling.
- Quitting Smoking
Eliminating smoking is very important for people with diabetes. Most people think of the risk for heart attack and stroke that accompanies smoking. This is very important, especially because people with diabetes already have an increased risk of stroke and heart disease. However, many people don’t know that smoking also increases your hemoglobin A1C.
If you have been struggling with improving your blood glucose levels, perhaps you should look at your smoking habit. If you are still smoking, it is important that you stop as soon as possible. This will have a great effect on your A1C and your long-term overall health.
- Medication Changes
As you may have found out, your diabetes might not be controlled using only lifestyle changes. Although you may be stuck taking medications, the lifestyle changes above can help decrease your dependence on them.
Make no mistake, your medication regimen is still incredibly important. Whether you are on insulin or pills, the best plan of action is to take them exactly as the doctor recommends. Try to take your medications at the same time every day. Missed doses can really cause problems with your glucose reading, especially if you are on insulin. Do your best and your doctor will see the difference in your A1C. And remember, if your glucose starts creeping up, ask your doctor to look at the medications you are taking and see if any changes should be made.
- Supplements, Including Aloe Vera & Fish Oil
Recently, researchers have been studying the effects of the Aloe Vera plant on diabetics’ A1C levels as well as their fasting blood glucose levels. A meta-analysis of nine clinical studies was completed to determine its effectiveness if taken orally, which researchers believed would be more beneficial and more affordable than traditional medications without the harsh side effects.
These nine clinical trials examined the effects of sources of Aloe Vera on over 280 type 2 diabetic and prediabetic people. They compared how Aloe Vera affected blood sugar versus a placebo or no treatment at all using the following various sources of Aloe:
- raw crushed Aloe leaves
- freshly extracted Aloe Vera juice
- Aloe Vera gel powder
- Aloe Vera extract
The conclusion of the meta-analysis was that using Aloe Vera orally significantly reduced A1C by 1.05% and also reduced fasting blood glucose levels by an average of 46.6 mg/dl. That much of a reduction could mean the difference for some people between falling into the diabetic range or not. Aloe Vera had the biggest impact on diabetics who had higher original levels than those who had lower levels. They also determined that further clinical trials were needed to explore and expand on these findings.
How Does Aloe Vera Lower A1C?
Among many other beneficial substances found in the gel of the Aloe Vera plant, one of the main ingredients you will find in Aloe is glucomannan. Glucomannan is a useful, water-soluble, and fermentable type of dietary fiber found in this ultra-healing plant that provides hypoglycemic effects, meaning it has the ability to lower blood sugar. It has been used for thousands of years in East Asia as both a food and for medicinal purposes.
Recently, there have been more than 20 studies conducted that have researched the link between glucomannan and diabetes. It has been proven to delay the stomach from emptying too quickly by absorbing water to form a bulked-up fiber which then results in slower food absorption and lower blood glucose levels after eating. Glucomannan also slows down the absorption of cholesterol and sugar in the gut also providing the effect of lowering blood sugar levels.
In addition to glucomannan, there are anthraquinones and lectins in Aloe Vera that help bind carbohydrates together which help decrease and regulate blood glucose and A1C levels. The gel from the Aloe Vera plant cleanses the gut and flushes out excess glucose in the blood and Aloe also stimulates the release of insulin, also reducing A1C levels and alleviating the symptoms of diabetes.
How to Use Aloe Vera to Lower A1C
To receive the full benefits of the Aloe Vera plant as a diabetes treatment, it is recommended that you start with 1 teaspoon of fresh Aloe gel a day and gradually build up to 3 teaspoons three times per day. Fresh Aloe gel has the biggest benefit by being quickly absorbed into the body. Other formulations to try that will still give you the benefits of earning that lowered number on your A1C test are:
- 300-2000mg of Aloe Vera extract in a highly concentrated capsule form every 12 hours
- 5-15 ml of Aloe Vera juice, twice a day, mixed with water or juice
Choose sources of Aloe Vera that are high-quality from a reputable provider and to ensure that it is untreated juice or a product without fillers or additives.
How Does Fish Oil Lower A1C?
Fish Oil (which is mostly made up of Omega-3 fatty acids) has been studied to show increased levels of a hormone called adiponectin which helps with insulin sensitivity according to Harvard researchers. According to the results, adiponectin levels increased by 0.37 micrograms per milliliter of blood for those given the Omega-3 supplement. These numbers may not mean much to you now, but adiponectin plays a beneficial role in processes that affect metabolism, such as blood sugar regulation and inflammation. Because of these findings along with other everyday health benefits it is recommended to add fish oil supplements to your daily diet if approved by your doctor.