What’s the best way to reach your HbA1c target if you have diabetes? The answer to that depends on your specific situation, but here are a few top tips you can use to hit your HbA1c target.
(Also, keep in mind that you can monitor your A1c levels at home with EverlyWell’s HbA1c Test.)
Researchers estimate that more than 35% of people with diabetes do not achieve their HbA1c target goals . That’s quite an alarming statistic because controlling blood sugar is one of the most important aspects of diabetes management.
So why do many people fail to reach their HbA1c targets?
The #1 reason is poor medication adherence  – in other words, a lot of people don’t take their prescribed anti-diabetes medication as prescribed.
The good news is that if you’re comfortable using anti-diabetes medication, you can simply make sure to take it on schedule – as recommended by your doctor – and get your refills before you run out. This can be an effective way to hit your HbA1c target dead center.
That being said, many people are reluctant to take prescribed medication (for a variety of reasons). If that’s the case for you, perhaps the best thing you can do is talk with your doctor and/or care team. Discuss your concerns about taking prescribed medication for diabetes, and review the benefits and risks of each treatment option available to you.
Your muscles often use your blood sugar as a source of energy, which is why exercise can have a positive effect on HbA1c levels.
So get your muscles moving – through regular exercise – if you want to see your HbA1c numbers take a turn for the better. Aim for around 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week – just 20 minutes or so each day – at moderate intensity if possible. Also, try to do resistance exercise – also known as strength training – at least 3 times a week .
One more thing: in general, the more exercise you do each week, the greater the change in your A1c levels will be . But if you aren't exercising 150 minutes a week (yet), it's best to start with small amounts of regular exercise until it's a habit – and then increase your intensity and frequency over time. So if walking is all you can do right now to get exercise, that’s better than nothing!
How can you determine what’s working for you – and what’s not working – when it comes to reaching your blood sugar target? Checking your HbA1c levels on a regular basis is one effective way you can do that.
HbA1c tests give your average blood sugar level from the past 3 months. So by checking your HbA1c several times throughout the year, you can track the long-term impact of things – like medication and exercise – on your blood sugar levels.
That kind of insight can help guide your strategy for lowering blood sugar, making it as effective as possible. Plus, regularly testing your HbA1c is a vital part of diabetes management.
How often should you check your HbA1c levels?
In general, test your HbA1c levels 4 times a year (every three months) if you haven’t yet reached your HbA1c target (according to the American Diabetes Association).
Haven’t checked your HbA1c levels in the past three months or so? Skip the waiting line at the clinic (or lab) and just test your HbA1c from the comfort of your home.
For better or worse, your diet can have a powerful influence on blood sugar levels. You can use that fact to your advantage by choosing a diet that’ll help you reach your HbA1c goal.
Just what sort of diet can do that?
There are several, in fact, according to recent research. Here are a few:
Mediterranean Diet - Largely consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and fish, the Mediterranean diet steers your taste buds away from red meat and refined sugar. Several studies report that this dietary pattern can lower HbA1c levels . It’s worth noting, however, that other studies haven’t found this to be the case.
Low-Glycemic Index Diet - The Glycemic Index ranks carbohydrate-containing foods based on how they affect blood sugar . Recent research shows that diets with a low Glycemic Index (GI) are better for controlling HbA1c levels than high-GI diets . Examples of low-GI foods include oatmeal, 100% stone-ground whole wheat bread, peas, legumes, and most fruits .
DASH Diet - DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The main focus of this dietary pattern is eating fruits, vegetables, fat-free dairy, whole grains, nuts, and legumes – while staying away from red meats and added sugars. A study came out this year that discovered the DASH diet is associated with lower HbA1c levels .
(Do keep in mind that everyone has different dietary needs, so it’s probably best to talk with a nutritionist or registered dietitian before committing to any one diet.)
Monitoring your HbA1c levels is one of the most important things you can do to reach your HbA1c target. After all, there’s no way of knowing how close you are to your goal if you don’t regularly check your HbA1c levels.
EverlyWell’s HbA1c kit takes the hassle out of the testing process. With this kit, you don’t have to set up an appointment with a clinic or lab. And you don’t have to wait in line before getting a full blood draw from one of your veins.
Instead, the HbA1c test kit will arrive at your doorstep. You can then take the test from the comfort and privacy of your home – using just a few drops of blood from your fingertip as a sample. And when your test results are ready, you can easily view them on EverlyWell’s friendly (and secure) online platform.
Here’s why one HbA1c test-taker loves this kit: “I have a history of blood sugar issues and thought it would be good to do this lab test. Not having insurance, it's wonderful to have an affordable option for information I can share with my doctor. My results have given me peace of mind, confirming that what I'm doing to manage my blood sugar is working.”