Getting your HbA1c results can either be actually pretty exciting or beyond daunting, depending on your expectations. We’re told by NICE to aim for 6.5% (48 mmol/mol), but scoring below 7% (53 mmol/mol) is still impressive, and for some this target is easily achievable. For others, it’s not.
So what is it people do to keep their HbA1c below 7%? Well, it’s actually quite a lot. There’s no singular fix, it derives from a lot of hard work and desire to maintain their good health. We’ve picked out 14 tips which, should you choose to implement, will likely return improvements at your next HbA1c test.
1. Go low-carb
If you don’t already eat low-carb then firstly, why not? Secondly, going low-carb can have a big impact on your HbA1c. Cut out processed foods and those high in starches and stick to healthy, real foods. Our Low Carb Program has helped people put their type 2 diabetes into remission through eating healthily.
2. Avoid eating after 8pm
There is anecdotal evidence that eating after 8pm causes an overnight spike in blood glucose levels, which won’t help your HbA1c levels at all.
3. Get good sleep
It can be easier said than done, but getting good quality sleep can help you feel less hungry the day after and less inclined to crave sweeter foods. It can also prevent insulin resistance.
4. Control your portions
Eating sensible portion sizes and having the confidence to leave food on your plate when you’re full can help you manage your weight and your blood sugar.
5. Avoid high-carb alcohol
Some beers, ciders and cocktails can be surprisingly high in sugar. Stick to lower-carb alcohol choices.
6. Regular exercise
You don’t need to overexert yourself, but regular exercise – whether gentle or high-intensity – will help to improve your insulin sensitivity and overall blood sugar control.
7. Know how to de-stress
We all get stressed for a number of reasons, particularly when it comes to diabetes. Not letting stress get the best of you will prevent your management from coming undone.
8. Be restaurant savvy
Restaurants can be challenging to adhere to your hard dietary work. Don’t undo it all by eating something high-carb if you don’t want to. Ask the server to replace the carbs in a meal with a side salad. You could also look up the restaurant’s menu in advance to research which meals are more low-carb friendly.
9. Avoid snacking
If you get the urge to snack, hold out until your next meal and add some filling, healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts or seeds.
10. Eat to your meter
Eat to your meter means regularly testing your blood sugar before and two hours after meals to see how certain foods affect your blood sugars.
11. Forum support
*These next few are primarily aimed at people with type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 diabetes who take glucose-lowering medication such as insulin, sulphonylureas and glinides.
12. Don’t overtreat hypos
Overtreating hypos can compromise your blood sugars later in the day. Be sure to treat hypos responsibly through 15-20g of fast-acting carbohydrate then check your levels again 15 minutes later.
13. Don’t eat when high
If you have the patience, wait until your blood sugar is back in range before having a meal. This may not always be practical but it can help prevent higher sugar levels after eating.
14. Try a CGM or FreeStyle Libre
CGMs and the FreeStyle Libre provide much more data to work with than blood glucose testing alone. The technology is helping many people to understand their diabetes better and achieve stronger control.