How to Lower Your A1C Levels
How Long Does it Take to Lower Your A1C Levels?
Red blood cells and the hemoglobin they contain have an average life span of 120 days during which glucose molecules are exposed to the red blood cells and form glycated hemoglobin. Therefore, in theory, changes in your A1C levels won't be apparent for at least the 120 days it takes for the affected red blood cells to complete a life cycle.
The amount of time it takes to lower your A1C depends on how big of a change you are trying to achieve. If your A1C is in the double digits, it may take a matter of 2 or 3 months to see a significant change if your diabetes management is consistent and tight. If your A1C is a point or two away from ADA/AACE recommendations, getting to goal may take a little longer.
"Lowering your HbA1c from a [high] number to an 8.0 or 7.5 is much easier than lowering it from a 7.5 to 6.5," said dLife Expert CDE Claire Blum in response to a question about lowering A1C levels. "Tightening of control that occurs at the lower numbers takes a lot of fine tuning. Our bodies also require some time to adapt to the change of improved [levels]."
Lowering A1C: Blood Sugar Testing
Regular testing will show you how food, exercise, medications, and other of life's daily situations impact your blood glucose levels. It also will allow you to detect highs more often and treat them earlier. This will help to lower A1C levels.
The ADA recommends testing three or more times daily for people taking multiple insulin injections or using insulin pump therapy, such as those with type 1 diabetes, some pregnant women with diabetes, and people with type 2 diabetes who take multiple injections of insulin daily.
For people with type 2 diabetes who are on oral medications or who control their diabetes through diet and exercise only, there is no official testing recommendation. However, the ADA does state self-monitoring of blood glucose may be appropriate in order to achieve blood glucose targets. (3)
For some, monitoring blood glucose levels can also be effectively managed by use of the continuous glucose monitoring system. A CGMS tests your blood glucose levels every 5 – 7 minutes throughout the day. The CGMS can be used by people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. While a CGMS does not replace traditional blood glucose meters, it can inform the user of trends and help avoid dangerous lows.
To find out the effects of a specific activity on your blood glucose, try testing in pairs, which is consistent testing of the blood sugar before and after the specific activity you are monitoring for a period of at least seven days.
- AACE. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists/American College of Endocrinology Statement on the Use of Hemoglobin A1c for the Diagnosis of Diabetes. https://www.aace.com/sites/default/files/A1cPositionStatement.pdf. (Accessed 7/5/11).
- American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes - 2010. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/Supplement_1/S11.full. (Accessed 7/5/11).
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. DCCT and EDIC: The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial and Follow-up Study. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/control. (Accessed 7/5/11).
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