Hemoglobin A1C is a classic blood test for measuring the level of sugar (glucose) in someone’s blood.
It is the closest thing you can get to a diabetes scorecard.
This test is capable of diagnosing diabetes and keeping track of whether the diabetes treatment plan works for the patient.
It’s important to meet your A1C goal and decrease the odds of diabetes-related complications.
The question is, what do you want your a1c to be? And what is a dangerous level of a1c?
If you need help with how to keep an eye on A1C test results, the guide below can help.
What is a1c?
The hemoglobin A1c (A1c or HbA1c) test helps measure a person’s level of glucose control. It shows an average blood sugar level over the last 90 days and represents a percentage. This test can be used to diagnose diabetes. Hemoglobin is a protein present in red blood cells.
Hemoglobin is what provides the blood with its bright red color. Because red blood cells live around 3 months on average, the A1c test can reflect these cells found in the bloodstream during testing. This makes the A1c a practical option for evaluating blood sugar control.
Normal a1c levels
The primary job of hemoglobin is to transport oxygen from the lungs to all the cells of the body. Hemoglobin can become coated with glucose from the bloodstream. For someone with high blood sugar levels, this starts to reflect on the surface of the hemoglobin, therefore causing high A1c levels.
People with diabetes should have their A1c checked regularly to determine if their glucose is within a normal range.
So, what is a normal a1c for a woman and men? For an A1c test to be considered normal or within the non-diabetic range, the reading should be under 5.7%.
Those with a reading of 5.7% to 6.4% are considered prediabetic. Diabetes can be diagnosed with an A1c of 6.5% or over. The higher the HbA1c, the bigger the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
For diabetic patients, an HbA1c below 7% is often viewed as good control. The target range for adults with diabetes tends to be between 6.0% and 6.9%. But, this can vary from person to person, depending on different health problems and age.
What is a dangerous level of a1c?
Many people are asking what a dangerous level of a1c is. Should I be worried?
For diabetic patients, having an HbA1c of 9% or over can drastically increase the odds of diabetes complications.
And what is a dangerous level of a1c if you don’t have diabetes? If the reading is between 5.7 – 6.4%, it indicates that you are prediabetic. But, if the A1C is 6.5% or over, it can indicate that you are diabetic.
What does it mean if your a1c is high? The high A1c value means that there is too much glucose in the blood.
Having dangerous hemoglobin a1c levels can amplify the risk of eye disease, heart disease, nerve pain, and kidney disease. The general guidelines are:
- Below 5.7%: non-diabetic
- Between 5.7% and 6.4%: prediabetic
- Between 6.0% and 6.9%: controlled diabetes
- Between 7.0% and 8.9%: uncontrolled diabetes
- Above 9.0%: critically high
However, the A1C level target range can vary from person to person. It can depend on multiple factors. For example, patients with advanced diabetes tend to have higher A1C values than those without metabolic conditions.
Other factors, like lifestyle changes, medications, stress, and blood disorders, can also play a role.
The high hemoglobin a1c symptoms occur due to increased glucose levels over 3 months. The classic causes of high a1c levels include being physically inactive, obese, having anemia, or diabetes.
If I lower my a1c am I still diabetic?
Doctors often diagnose patients with diabetes if the person’s HbA1c is equal to or over 6.5%. To reverse diabetes, the patient would have to lower their high a1c below the diabetic range. Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are reversible.
Complications of high a1c levels
What happens when a1c is too high? A very high HbA1c value can be worrying. For people without diabetes, it means that without proper intervention, they could develop this metabolic syndrome. For people already diagnosed with diabetes, it predisposes them to greater odds of diabetes complications.
If you’ve tried to manage your condition, having high A1c levels means you have uncontrolled diabetes. Your current treatment plan is not as efficient as it should be. And you should talk to a specialist.
Probable complications from high blood glucose can include:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Cardiovascular disease
- Eye disease
- Kidney disease
So, at what a1c level does damage start? Blood vessel damage often starts when the HbA1c value is over 7%. The odds of complications drastically skyrocket when the readings are over 9%.
When the side effects of high a1c levels are left unmanaged over time, unstable glucose can cause diabetic retinopathy, kidney failure, cardiac disease, and gum disease. The eye changes could lead to vision loss or poor vision. Classic diabetic eye diseases include glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic macular edema, and retinopathy.
How to reduce a1c levels
People want to know how to lower a1c in a week. When managing the a1c levels, it is important to know that this is a slow and gradual process. Therefore, you can’t expect to lower the values overnight.
What you can do, instead, is talk to your doctor and find the best ways to manage the problem. The options below can help.
Review your prescription medication. If the diabetes medications you are using right now are not enough to help manage your condition, then you might need to change your diabetes medicines. Doctors often recommend increasing the dosage.
Various classes of drugs can work to reduce blood sugar levels. Some of the most popular prescription medications include:
- Dopamine-2 Agonists
- Bile Acid Sequestrants
- Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors
- DPP-4 inhibitors
- SGLT2 Inhibitors
- Oral combination therapy
According to research, repaglinide is almost as effective as metformin. It can decrease the A1c levels by around 1.5 percentage points. Nateglinide tends to be less effective for curbing the A1c than repaglinide when used as a combination or monotherapy. A doctor can suggest the best form of treatment.
When it comes to self-care, exercise should be a go-to choice. Being physically active can help the body use insulin more effectively so it can better process blood sugar in the system. Regular exercise can curb glucose and improve A1c.
Exercise also decreases the risk of stroke, heart disease, or other serious ailments that diabetics are susceptible to.
Reports show that resistance or structured aerobic exercise can reduce HbA1c levels by around 0.6% on average in people with type 2 diabetes.
A 1% reduction in A1C value is linked with a drop between 15% and 20% in the risk of cardiovascular problems. And a drop of 37% in the risk of microvascular complications.
To keep the A1c value normal, do at least 150 min of moderate exercise a week. That includes cycling, brisk walking, dancing, swimming, etc.
Another worthy strategy is to reduce the extra body fat. Since we all have different body structures, weight reduction can benefit some people.
Losing 5% to 7% of your body weight can help decrease the diabetes risk by up to 90%. And exercise can help with that.
If you can exercise regularly, you can create 5-7% weight loss, which is clinically significant. For a beginner, it’s best to start with at least 30 min of moderate activity a couple of days a week. The more you work on your fitness routine, the longer you can exercise.
Foods to lower a1c
How do I lower a1c without medicine? Your diet is a great way to start. Although factors like genes, stress, exercise, and body weight affect how well you manage your glucose levels, food is equally important.
Foods to lower a1c include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nut butter
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Oat bran
These foods help regulate glucose levels and supply the body with the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Foods that cause the glucose to spike are typically those rich in carbs, such as bread, rice, and sugar.
Products that can trigger a sudden rise in glucose are high-GI foods. These are white bread, sweet soft drinks, white rice, and potatoes. Your body breaks them down quickly, triggering a quick blood sugar spike.
Medium or low GI foods take time to break down. Therefore, they can slowly increase their glucose levels. Some of these foods are whole grains, veggies, and fruits.
Many low-GI foods, like fruits and veggies, are something you should include in a balanced and healthy diet.
Supplements can help manage diabetes and reduce the medication dose. Cinnamon supplements, for example, either those manufactured of cinnamon extract or powder, can curb glucose levels. Cinnamon can make the cells more responsive to insulin, which can help establish better diabetes control.
American ginseng might help. Up to 3 g of American ginseng a day can curb fasting glucose and blood sugar after meals. But, this supplement can interact with warfarin and other medicine. Therefore, you should talk to a doctor before trying this.
Probiotic supplements can help the body handle carbohydrates. They can also curb the A1c value. This makes probiotics beneficial for people with diabetes or prediabetes.
Home remedies to lower your a1c are mindful meditation and other relaxation techniques. Stress prepares the body for a fight-or-flight response. Over time, chronic stress can amplify your A1C levels.
2To curb stress, spend time doing things you enjoy, whether that is a massage, yoga, meditation, or something else.
The A1C test can help assess the blood sugar level during a 3-month span. It is a practical option for diagnosing a metabolic condition or monitoring it.
Too high an A1C can make you prone to diabetic complications. A dangerous A1C level could also mean that the current diabetes treatment is not working. With food, exercise, and a couple of lifestyle changes, you can keep your A1C within a normal range.
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