Your A1C test results give an average of your blood sugar levels over a period of two to three months to show you if your diabetes is under control. It’s different than the day-to-day blood sugar tests you take at home, which show snapshots of your blood sugar at that moment — for example, whether it’s spiking after meals or dipping between them.
The American Diabetes Association likens the A1C test result to a baseball player’s batting average, which sums up the player’s abilities better than any single at bat.
Insulin is the next step if you've had difficulty controlling your A1C level with diet, exercise, and oral diabetes drugs. Your doctor will tell you what your A1C target should be. The American Diabetes Association recommends keeping it at less than 7 percent. Your target might be higher or lower based on your health and how long you’ve had diabetes.
While you’re on insulin, here are a few things you can do to get your A1C to the recommended number.
Get your insulin dose and timing right
Your doctor will prescribe your insulin dose based on your blood sugar levels, age, weight, exercise, diet, and kidney function. You might need to adjust some of your doses because of changes in your diet and spikes in blood sugar.
To know whether you’re on the right insulin dose, if you are on insulin you’ll also need to test your blood sugar at home once or more times daily. Ask your doctor how often and when to check.
Stick with your program
Insulin won’t help your A1C levels if you don’t take it. Follow the plan your doctor set up for you. If you notice that your daily blood sugar levels are still high, check back in with your doctor. You might need to change your dose or timing of your insulin injections.
Follow your doctor’s instructions when it comes to things that can affect your blood sugar control. Stick to a healthy eating plan, exercise daily, and lose weight if your doctor advises.
Eat to lower your blood sugar
A healthy diet is important in managing your blood sugar. There is no one diet for everyone, and you don’t necessarily need to be drastic — stick to real foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans, and low-fat dairy. Get carbs from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, which raise your blood sugar steadily. Avoid refined carbohydrates from processed, fried, and sugary foods. These types of foods can cause blood sugar spikes.
A daily walk, bike ride, or swim can lower blood sugar and help your body use insulin better. Try to incorporate 30 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic exercise into your schedule on most or all days of the week. Try to decrease the amount of time you’re sedentary.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, start slowly and increase the intensity as you feel ready. You may need to adjust your insulin dose or eat extra carbs while you work out to avoid blood sugar dips.
Track your progress
You won’t be able to see whether your insulin routine has helped your A1C levels until you get tested, which happens at most every three months. You can check your blood sugar on a daily basis.
You can also track your blood sugar and other measures of diabetes control using a few handy apps.
- Apps like Glooko, mySugr, and BG Monitor Diabetes let you keep track of how well you’re controlling your blood sugar over time. These apps can also help you see how insulin, diet, and exercise influence your blood sugar levels.
- Apps like Glucosio track your weight, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other measures of your general health.
- MyNetDiary PRO and Fooducate help you make smarter meal choices.
Communicate with your doctor
Controlling your A1C levels is a partnership between you and your doctor. Keep in regular touch with your health care team, especially if your blood sugar levels are out of range. Some apps will let you send your readings to your doctor, but you should still bring your numbers with you to appointments. Make sure you show up for your A1C tests, which will probably happen four times a year.
It can take a few months to see a change in your A1C numbers. Don’t get frustrated if they don’t go down right away. Be patient but persistent with your insulin regimen, and the rest of your treatment plan.