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Hemoglobin A1c: What does it mean for diabetes self-management?

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you should have an A1C test every 3-6 months to determine what your average blood glucose (blood sugar) has been during the previous 3 months.  The A1C level is more heavily influenced by the most previous month of blood glucose.

Facts about A1C

  • The normal A1C for people without diabetes is 4-6%
  • The goal for A1C for people with diabetes is generally less than 7%
  • The A1C goal should be individualized.  An older person living alone may benefit from an A1C goal of 8-9%.
  • The lower the A1C for people with diabetes, the lower the risk of developing complications such as eye, heart, kidney disease and damage to the nerves to the feet.

For more information about A1C, read this article from the journal Clinical Diabetes.

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Are you at risk for type 2 diabetes?

When I speak with a person who has just been diagnosed with diabetes I hear a very similar theme.  Some things I hear are “I don’t know what I did to make this happen,” “I must have been eating too much sugar,” “I didn’t know this would happen to me,” “My grandmother had diabetes and lost her legs.  I am scared this will happen to me.”

Type 2 diabetes is rarely a sudden onset.  Most people have been at risk for or had type 2 diabetes for months to years and were unaware.  If you would like to find out your risk for type 2 diabetes, take the “are you at risk” test at the American Diabetes Association website.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) nearly 90 percent of people with prediabetes are not aware they have it.  If current trends continue it is suggested that 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years (CDC, 2016).

Okay, that is the bad news.  So what is the good news?  The good news is that research shows prediabetes often can be reversed through lifestyle changes.  Prediabetes does not have to progress to diabetes.  Being aware of whether or not you have prediabetes would be important in order to monitor your health for progression to type 2 diabetes.

Ask your doctor for testing to determine if you have prediabetes if you find you are at risk for type 2 diabetes using the “are you at risk” test (ADA, 2016).  If your hemoglobin A1c (3 month blood sugar average test) is 5.7%-6.4%, you have prediabetes.

If you have prediabetes you can put measures in place to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58% by losing 7% of your body weight (that would be 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) and/or exercising moderately (such as brisk walking) 30 minutes a day, five days a week.  Set an achievable goal for weight loss and/or exercise and reset your goal after rewarding yourself for achieving your first goal!

Walking at home: Exercise at your own pace

Who said exercise had to be planned around your daily busy life? A strategy for incorporating exercise into your morning routine is using Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home videos. The Walk at Home youtube videos are available to view at no charge.
The first Walk at Home video I experienced was ‘Walking Down Your Blood Sugar’ DVD provided as part of a grant to patients with diabetes.

Here are a few Walk at Home videos to start with:
START! Walking at Home American Heart Association 3 Mile Walk:

1 Mile Happy Walk:

Remember to always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.