7 Recommended Steps to Lower Your A1C

  • cropped image of paper lab test result showing fasting blood glucose and HbA1c next to vial of blood
    If your A1C number is not at your target number, you can help get it there.
    People with diabetes know that an A1C test measures the amount of glucose attached to a specific protein in the blood, averaged over a few months. If your number is over 6.5, your blood sugar is not as well controlled as it should be. But, you can take steps to lower it, especially if you have type 2 diabetes. If you’re type 1, medication will play a larger role. Changing habits takes time, and your A1C will not come down overnight, but when you lower your A1C, you also lower your risk of serious health complications from diabetes.

  • Woman on scale
    1. Stay at a healthy weight.
    If you have type 2 diabetes and are overweight, commit to losing the extra pounds and work with your diabetes team to get there. Even losing 5 to 10% of your body weight will help you use insulin more efficiently, lowering your blood sugar. Over time, your A1C is likely to drop too. If you’re type 1, you may be lean, but obesity rates are rising in people with type 1 diabetes, so keep an eye on your weight.

  • woman-taking-insulin-before-meal
    2. Eat a carb-appropriate diet.
    If you have type 1 diabetes, your goal is to take the right amount of insulin for your carb intake as well as your daily background insulin. Today’s insulin pumps and glucose monitors make that part easier; but, if you need mealtime insulin, you need to know how to count carbs and figure out your dose before you eat. If you have type 2 diabetes, tracking carbs and keeping your carb intake consistent during the day will help avoid sugar spikes. When you balance your daily blood sugar levels, your A1C number can improve.
  • grandfather smiling at table with son and grandson
    3. Eat on a regular schedule.
    Eating at the same time and about the same amount each day will help your body maintain a steady blood sugar level. Over time, this will help lower your A1C. Aim to eat three meals a day, about five hours apart, and be consistent with the amount of carbs you eat at each meal. Think ahead, make shopping and meal plans, and consider consulting with a registered dietitian. They can help you create delicious, balanced meals with the appropriate amount of carbs for you spread out throughout the day.

  • Happy friends enjoying Christmas party at home
    4. If you drink, do it in moderation.
    There is some evidence that a moderate amount of alcohol may lower your blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. Despite the sugar content, alcohol is low carb, but that doesn’t mean you should overdo it. Drinking more than three drinks a day can lead to a higher A1C, as well as a higher risk of serious medical conditions, such as liver disease and cancer. If you drink moderately at times, you may find that your A1C is lower than when you don’t drink. However, experts do not fully understand the link between moderate drinking and a lower A1C; so, if you don’t drink, don’t start. (Moderate alcohol use is one drink per day for females and two drinks per day for males.)
  • woman-sitting-down-lifting-weights
    5. Exercise regularly.
    No matter whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, staying active can help bring down your A1C because activity makes your body absorb more sugar. If you’re type 2, exercise can help counteract insulin resistance by making your body more sensitive to it. Almost any form of exercise is good: walking, aerobic, strength training, or any combination of those. If you’re type 1, exercise when your blood sugar is high, 1 to 3 hours after you eat. If your blood sugar is low when you test it before you exercise, eat a snack before you start.
  • obese man taking pill for dieting
    6. Take your diabetes medications.
    If you have type 1 diabetes, you know that taking insulin is essential since your body cannot produce it. Learn about onset, peak and duration of insulin therapy, and work with your doctor to find the type of insulin that works best for you. If you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor may prescribe an alpha-glucosidase inhibitor, which can help break down starches and sugars. Another type of medication, biguanides, reduces the amount of sugar your liver produces. It also lowers insulin resistance and helps muscles absorb needed blood sugar. You may also need insulin therapy to adequately control your blood glucose level.
  • Endocrinologist showing patient diabetic equipment
    7. Monitor your A1C.
    A1C target levels can vary according to a person’s age, general health, and other factors, so make sure you understand the target your doctor sets for you. If you are not taking insulin and your blood sugar is controlled and within your target range, have your A1C checked every six months. If you use insulin or your blood sugar levels remain high, you’ll likely have your A1C checked every three months. If you change your diabetes medication or treatment plan, your doctor may recommend more frequent A1C tests.
7 Recommended Steps to Lower Your A1C

About The Author

Nancy LeBrun is an Emmy- and Peabody award-winning writer and producer who has been writing about health and wellness for more than five years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
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  2. 7 Ways to Lower Your A1C Level, Even if You Don’t Have Diabetes. Dignity Health.https://www.dignityhealth.org/articles/7-ways-to-lower-your-a1c-level-even-if-you-dont-have-diabetes
  3. Mottalib A, Kasetty M, Mar JY, Elseaidy T, Ashrafzadeh S, Hamdy O. Weight Management in Patients with Type 1 Diabetes and Obesity. Curr Diab Rep. 2017;17(10):92. Published 2017 Aug 23. doi:10.1007/s11892-017-0918-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569154/
  4. Carb Counting and Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/understanding-carbs/carb-counting-and-diabetes 
  5. Alcohol and Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/medication-treatments/alcohol-diabetes
  6. Understanding A1C. American Diabetes Association. https://www.diabetes.org/a1c

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Last Review Date: 2021 Oct 6
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