The Ultimate Guide on How to Lower A1c!

Last Updated on by Kari Garner, MS RDN LD CDCES

 Today, On The Blog, I am sharing everything you need to know about how to lower your A1c and reclaim control as you learn to manage your blood sugar levels.

Abnormal lab values can be alarming for anyone regardless if you have been diagnosed with type 1, type 2, gestational or prediabetes.

As a diabetes educator and registered dietitian, I am here to support you while also providing tools and resources to reduce confusion and frustration around living with diabetes. 

While this comprehensive blog is intended for someone recently diagnosed, anyone with type 2 diabetes can benefit from the wealth of insights.

The information will help you navigate blood sugar management and learn simple ways on how to lower hemoglobin A1c. 

What is hyperglycemia?

As you read through this blog, I will often use the term hyperglycemia and insulin resistance. Let me provide my definition of each of these concepts before diving into how to lower A1c. 

Hyperglycemia is also known as high blood sugar and is a condition when there is too much glucose in the bloodstream. 

Not only can high blood sugars lead to fatigue, agitation, extreme thirst and brain fog but they can contribute to a variety of health conditions such as diabetes, chronic inflammation, nerve damage, heart disease and kidney disease.

When blood sugars are high, it can be an indication our bodies have a problem with insulin such as insulin resistance or lack of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps glucose get into your cells to give them energy. 

Insulin Resistance

To make it easier to understand, think of insulin as a key that opens the door of a cell. When working properly, insulin or the “key” can open the door and allow the glucose to enter from the bloodstream into the cell.

This provides our body with the energy it needs to perform daily activities.

With insulin resistance, the “key” is not functioning or is resistant to opening that door. Thus, glucose is stuck in the bloodstream and is unable to enter the cell.

This causes blood sugar levels to rise creating a state of hyperglycemia.

On the flip side, when your body has a lack of insulin, there are not enough “keys” to open all the cell doors to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range. 

key in door

What Causes High Blood Sugars?

There are many different factors that cause hyperglycemia such as health conditions, diet, lifestyle habits, medications… the list goes on. 

I have heard from clients over the years that determining which factor(s) are causing their elevated blood sugars can be beyond frustrating.

This is the number one reason I advocate for my clients to take a personalized approach to their health. With the many influences, risk factors, treatment options, a customized approach can pinpoint the direction that’ll put you on the path for improved health.

Understanding Hemoglobin A1c

Now, let’s tie these concepts together to understand how to lower A1c levels. 

An A1c or hemoglobin A1c test is a blood test to determine what your average blood sugar has been over the past 2-3 months. This is an insight into how your blood sugars have been controlled and your risk for adverse effects of diabetes.

If you have been experiencing hyperglycemia over the past few months, the percentage will be higher. If your blood sugars have been lower and/or controlled, then the percentage will be lower.

A hemoglobin A1c also provides a deeper understanding of overall blood sugar management compared to a fasting plasma glucose test, which is a blood test after fasting for at least 8 hours.

What Should my A1c Be?

The A1c goals for diabetes have been set by the American Diabetes Association and are as follows:

  • If your A1C is less than 5.7%, you are in the normal blood sugar range.
  • If your A1C is between 5.7 and 6.4%, you are in the prediabetes range.
  • If your A1c is 6.5% and greater, you are in the diabetes range.

Your ideal A1c should be determined by your diabetes care team after they take into consideration other health conditions, lifestyle habits, medications and type of diabetes. 

Ways to Lower A1c

Lowering your A1c involves a multifaceted approach that combines behavior change, balanced nutrition, physical activity and medication management.

By integrating these lifestyle modifications, you can actively work towards achieving an optimal A1c level and feeling confident in managing blood sugars..

Behavior Change

Managing your blood sugar levels starts with willingness to change current behaviors and adapt new habits.

From tracking yourself, to setting goals, eating mindfully to getting support, you will be able to build the foundation you need to manage your blood sugar levels.

A1c Lowering Foods

Incorporating protein, fat and fiber into your diet can promote stable blood sugars and a reduced A1c. 

There may not be a magical diet of foods that lower A1c, but this list does offer essential nutrients that contribute to improved blood sugar control. 

  • Non starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. 
  • Complex carbohydrates like rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes and oats. 
  • Nuts and seeds including almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
  • Healthy fats from salmon, olive oil and avocados. 
  • Lean protein such as chicken, beef, tofu, edamame, eggs and low-fat dairy. 

Physical Activity 

Engaging in regular daily movement is a powerful strategy for lowering A1c levels. Exercise helps the body utilize insulin more effectively to promote better blood sugar control. 

Brisk walking, jogging, cycling, weight lifting and bodyweight exercises all contribute to improved insulin sensitivity.

Establishing a routine that includes at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week should be the goal. 

Medication Management

Medications as prescribed by healthcare professionals play a crucial role in blood sugar levels. While reducing medication use is an opportunity, adherence to the prescribed dosage is paramount to lowering your A1c. 

It is also important to stay informed about the purpose and potential side effects of medications so you can actively advocate for your diabetes care.

Want to learn more about your medication regime and create a list of potential questions to ask your health care team? Book a diabetes education session with me!

How can a dietitian help you manage blood sugars?

At Springtime Nutrition, I use a patient-led approach. I meet clients where they are at in their journey to create a personalized plan. 

We work together 1:1 either by phone or online/video chat to create actionable goals to transform into permanent results. I have seen incredible changes in patients’ lifestyles and health through my counseling method.  Learn more here!

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Flourish with Diabetes!

If you are ready to take the leap and transform your health, check out my Resources Page. I can help you grow & flourish with diabetes!

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Springtime Nutrition, LLC was founded on my passion to partner with individuals to eliminate the stress, frustration and overwhelm of changing their nutrition lifestyle. I am committed to supporting you at every step of your journey. Ready to transform your life?  Get started today!

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Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist/ Registered Dietitian/ Owner / Springtime Nutrition, LLC

Kari is a diabetes expert with more than 18 years of experience. Kari currently works as a diabetes educator with a large hospital system in Charleston, SC and is committed to improving the lives of people with any type of diabetes.

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