What if there were a magical “lower your A1c” wand? You just pull it out, swoop it over your head (or your pancreas) and… voila! A1c lowered.
If only it were that simple.
Focusing on eeking down that ever shifting number can be one of the most frustrating things a person living with diabetes has to do. But here is some good news: while there may not be a magic wand, there are some pretty simple, pretty cool fixes to help you on your way to lower your A1c.
Kick it old school: Remember those bulky paper logbooks we all used to lug around? Yeah, well there’s something about them that just works. Going back to actually logging blood sugars, meals and doses can really help a person lower an A1c. Why? Because while it’s great to have tools that automatically upload to our medical team (and our computers), writing things down forces us to face them more, study them more and yes, not ignore them. (A cool side trick: use one of those pens with four colors of ink in it. Write all of your in range numbers in green, your high numbers in blue and your low numbers in red. Use the black for notes. With this, you can look at a logbook page and the patterns will jump out at you.)
Ramp it up new school: Never used a CGM? Or haven’t used it in a while? CGM’s are a great way to help you lower your A1c, says Regina Shirley, RD, LDN and person with diabetes. “I make a commitment with my CGM. I will wear it religiously until I can get my A1c back to where I like it. It is not as easy as it may seem to remember to check blood sugars, and inserting yet one more device in your body adds on time to your diabetes care regimen that you would rather spend doing something else. However, when you know you need to get in better control, either to help with such things as pregnancy preparation, or to rein in rollercoaster blood sugars (which often equal rollercoaster emotions), those extra seconds to pay attention are well worth the positive outcomes.”
Trick out your treating: That old 15 grams and 15 minute “rule” needs to be tricked out, says Ginger Vieira, author of “Dealing With Diabetes Burnout”. “The general recommendation is to treat all lows with 15 grams of carbs, but most often, that’ll bring your blood sugar back up to 120 – 160 mg/dL! Way too high if you want your A1c in the 5s. So now I treat most lows with 5 to 10 grams of carbohydrate and only exceed that amount for more severe lows. This way I’m only bringing my blood sugar back up to the 70-100 mg/dL range.”
Shake up your shape up: Been working out hard and trying to diet, and yet your A1c has not budged? Shake it all up, says Gina Capone, person with diabetes and blogger at pumpincrossfitmom.com, which launches on September 12. Capone found that her diet and workouts were not helping, so she changed it all. Now three months into Crossfit and the Paleo diet, she’s seen a one-point drop in her a1c Already. “Eat like a caveman; workout like an animal,” she said. “The change is really working for me.”
Double Down (Test, test, test): Regina Shirley also has this advice: “When I want to get my A1c reined in the first thing I do is double my blood glucose testing. I take any extra meters I have around the house, and I make sure I have one next to my bed, in my purse and on the kitchen counter. This way I have no excuse not to test and I make more accurate insulin and eating decisions.”
Shorten the leash: Sometimes tightening up just means… tightening up, says long-time person with diabetes Mike Barry, “To keep my A1c on a short leash, I aim at normal blood glucose targets. If I don’t hit them, I don’t beat myself up. I figure out what I need to get there and do it. Using “normal” targets of 85-90 mg/dL for the bolus wizard on my pump and 70-130 as the high/ low on my CGM, have proven to get me there better than aiming at say 140 or 180 after dinner and 100 or 110 or whatever doctors recommend for fasting these days. It took a while to get used to it but with small corrections, I can run flat lines, sometimes for days. If I run into turbulence, it’s no big deal, because the practice aiming at normalizing my blood glucose has given me lots of experience. I have tactics to use in the battles that have given me victory in the war.”
Sure-fire solution: Take three cups of cinnamon and stir it into an okra-infused glass of water. Empty that into a large bowl made of tree bark harvested directly from the Amazon, preferably spit on in the past by a llama. Hold it in your arms and then go for a good, long walk every single day. Because while there may be no magical solutions, sometimes a solution is right in front of you. One foot in front of the other.
*Disclaimer: The information in this article is not medical advice and is not meant to be taken as medical advice. Talk to your healthcare professional before making any changes in your diabetes care.