Updated: Oct 21, 2020
At D1abesties, we believe that small steps lead to big victories – be it squeezing in a workout routine for two weeks straight or getting a lower Hba1c number. Apart from testing our sugar levels several times a day on our own using a glucometer, we are advised to get the Hba1c test done. This test indicates the average blood sugar level over the past 2-3 months. Moreover, it also indicates how well your diabetes management plan is working in the longer run. Sounds familiar? Well, let's start from the start!
What is hba1c?
Think of it as this - sugar coats/sticks onto red blood cells (RBCs) – on to hemoglobin to be specific. Hemoglobin is a protein in the RBCs that carries oxygen. So, better blood glucose control will mean less sugar sticking to the RBCs. ‘Hba1c’ or the ‘hemoglobin a1c’ or simply ‘a1c’ is the test that measures what percentage of one's hemoglobin is coated with sugar - so if eight out of hundred RBCs are coated with sugar, your hba1c is 8. Better blood sugar control will help you achieve a healthy Hba1c number and in turn, lower the risk of complications! Easy, right?!
How often to get tested?
This could vary from two to four times a year, or even more. Always listen to your doctor, as he/she will be able to tell you how often you require to get the test done, based on how well you have been managing your blood sugar levels and several other factors that are unique to you.
What is the normal Hba1c number?
There has been a long standing debate about the 'standard' range. However, less than 7% is a generally accepted 'normal' level of Hba1c for diabetics (both Type 1 & 2). The idea is to not get too bogged down by numbers but work towards reaching a healthy Hba1c level and maintaining it..
As a type-one-of-a-kind diabetic, one of our goals should be to work on lowering the Hba1c level. Doing this is as easy as understanding what it means! Read on...
1. Meaningful meals count
Eating a balanced diet is half the battle won in your diabetes management - stick to the meal plan that your diabetologist/dietitian/doctor has asked you to. Avoid processed and sugar-loaded foods as far as possible, making exceptions for the few occasional treats. Yes, diabetics are allowed to do that *eye rolls* [link to video about myths]
2. Working on Hba1c means working out
Wait, did we not mention that already? Exercise is key in not only having a healthy lifestyle but even in achieving a healthy Hba1c level. As is ideally suggested for everyone, even non-diabetics, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week is essential - be it walking, jogging, riding the bicycle, dancing, swimming, hitting the gym or any other sport that you like playing. If you are starting a new workout routine, do keep in mind your insulin dosage and have a pre-exercise snack and hypo treatment handy as you adjust to a new routine. (Link to remedies for hypos post)
3. Stick to a schedule
Having a medical condition such as Type One Diabetes invariably makes you more alert and aware of your body's requirements and instills a sense of disciplined eating, exercising and living. This may happen sooner or later, but one is sure to see the benefits of sticking to good habits such as eating at regulated intervals and time, not skipping meals and thereby keeping sugar levels stable.
4. Checking blood sugar levels as instructed
What may seem as a mundane task of checking blood sugar level several times in a day is actually helpful in improving your Hba1c levels. Even though the Hba1c test and normal blood sugar level tests (such as fasting, post prandial etc) measure different things, overall consistent blood glucose readings will translate into healthier hba1c levels over time. You get the drift, yeah?
5. Slow and steady is a good way to make friends with hba1c
In a bid to lower your Hba1c level, you should not invite frequent episodes of hypoglycemia as that will do more harm than good. Most people who are type-one-of-a-kind-diabetic relate to Hba1c tests like those quarterly report cards in school or semester end exams in college – you know how well you have done, you know where you have been lax and yet you are nervous about the result. But hey, keep at it - slow and steady! We’re in this together.
Don’t forget to leave a comment with your progress…
- Arpita Vagdama