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JODY HOLTON — The doctor wants an A1C Test. What is it and why?

It’s a blood test you’ll get in your doctor’s office at least twice a year or more often if needed.

A1C tests measure average blood glucose over the past two to three months. So even if you have a high fasting blood sugar, your overall blood sugar may be normal, or vice versa.

A level of 5.7 to 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes. People with diabetes have an A1C level of 6.5 percent or above.

If you’re in the early stages of diabetes, small changes in lifestyle can make a big difference and even put your diabetes in remission. Losing a few pounds or starting an exercise program can help.

For those who have had pre-diabetes or diabetes for a long time, higher A1C results may be a sign that you need to start on medication or change what you’re already taking. You may also need to make other lifestyle changes and monitor your daily blood glucose more closely.

Why is this test important? Your red blood cells have something called hemoglobin that carries oxygen from your lungs to cells all over your body. Glucose goes into your red blood cells and coats molecules of hemoglobin. The more glucose you have in your blood, the more coated hemoglobin molecules you have.

The A1c test measures how much of your hemoglobin is coated with sugar. The higher your level, the greater your chance for problems down the road. It means your blood sugar control plan isn’t working at its best.

If your blood sugar is too high for too long, it can cause serious health problems. It’s something to be careful of whether you have diabetes or not.

How high is too high?

Your doctor will tell you what your target range should be, and what to do if your levels aren’t in that range. If you have diabetes, you’ll need to check your blood sugar, also called glucose, to know if it’s too high, too low, or meets your goal.

The problems that high blood sugar can cause happen over time. The sooner you get your levels back in line, the better.

What high blood sugar feels like …

Feeling thirstier than usual, blurred vision, having to urinate more often, feeling hungrier than normal, numb or tingling feet. You might also feel more tired than usual, get infections on your skin or notice that cuts and sores take a long time to heal.

Tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

Let’s look at some ways to lower your A1C. Start by making changes to what you eat. When you watch your diet because you have diabetes, you’ll want to pay special attention to carbohydrates, because they can affect your blood sugar level faster than protein or fat.

Drinking alcohol can cause your blood sugar to rise. Learn other effects of alcohol on diabetes, and how to drink safely. A healthy eating plan is good for the whole family and in many cases WILL prevent other family member numbers from climbing if caught early.

Ask your doctor for the name of a dietitian who can work with you on an eating plan for you and your family. Your dietitian can help plan meals with foods you and your family like and that are good for you. MOVE your body: walk, bike, get outside and get some exercise.

Getting active is especially good for people with diabetes because:

  • It helps keep your weight down.
  • Your insulin may lower your blood sugar more easily.
  • It helps your heart and lungs work better.
  • Exercise gives you more energy.

Before you start, talk with your doctor. If you have high blood pressure or eye problems, some exercises like weight lifting may not be safe.

Your doctor or nurse will help you find safe exercises. Again, this is a plan that is great for the entire family.

Type 2 diabetes can seem overwhelming at times, but you can take control back. It helps to have people who encourage you and show you new ways to manage your diabetes day to day. Put them on your go-to list, and reach out any time you need their insight and motivation.

For this reason, I encourage modifications to diet and exercise to be a family endeavor. Be each other’s support. Of course, rely on professionals for guidance and instruction, but being there for each other in the family makes the lifestyle changes easier to deal with.

A little effort leads to a healthier life.

Jody Holton writes about health for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com.