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Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) is a measurement of how well diabetics keep their blood sugar levels under control over a 90 to 120 day period. Here's how to achieve an improvement in your HbA1C before your next visit to your doctor.

There are generally accepted interpretations of hemoglobin A1C numbers:

  • "Normal" blood sugar control results in an A1C below 5.7 percent.
  • "Prediabetic" blood sugar control results in an A1C between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent, inclusive.
  • "Diabetic" blood sugar levels are over 6.4 percent.

Managing diabetes, however, really isn't just about getting the right numbers. It's about helping your body make energy in healthy ways. Numbers like fasting blood sugar levels, post-prandial (after meal) blood sugar levels, and hemoglobin A1C, however, are good indicators of how well you are helping your body deal with the disease.Hemoglobin A1C is a measurement of the percentage f your red blood cells have become "stuck" to sugar. There's no way that these red blood cells become "unstuck," so doctors usually take a measurement about as often as the life expectancy of a red blood cell, somewhere between 90 and 120 days [1].

Obvious and not-as-obvious ways to lower hemoglobin A1C levels naturally

    There are obvious and not-as-obvious ways to lower hemoglobin A1C levels naturally before your next test, but these suggestions aren't really cheating. The interventions for lowering your A1C numbers suggested here actually improve your health and help you avoid diabetes complications.

    • If you have a question about your diabetes care, ask it. That may sound like an odd concern if your objective is to lower your hemoglobin A1C levels naturally, but a study of diabetics in Tennessee and Florida found that those who had a contact person for asking questions about diabetes had a significant effect on high HbA1C. Finding someone who will listen to you and answer your questions about diabetes is particularly helpful, in terms of your diabetes control, if you are a member of one of those groups [2]. Join an on-line forum, call the advice nurse at your local clinic, or check our diabetes support meetings.
    • Don't be afraid of low-sugar, low-calorie, low-carbohydrate desserts. Sweets are most diabetics' downfall. Sure, it would be best if diabetics never, ever ate any sugary foods at all, but the real battle for many people with diabetes is how not to eat the whole carton of ice cream or the whole pie or cake. Researchers divided diabetic volunteers into two groups. They told one group to eat one portion of their favorite regular dessert once a week. They told the other group to eat a low-sugar, low-calorie, low-carb dessert four times a week. Which group had better HbA1C control, not to mention lower blood pressure and better HDL cholesterol? The four-desserts-a-week group. [3] You don't have to give up sweets. You just have to find sweets that are diabetes-friendly. You will do better if you don't feel deprived.
    • Say cheese, please, but only if you have type 2.  If you are a type 2 diabetic, the casein in dairy products will increase your insulin secretion and lower your post-prandial blood sugar levels. If you are a type 1 diabetic, dairy products at the beginning of your meal will increase your glucagon production and raise your post-prandial blood sugar levels. [4] Actually, glucagon levels are raised in type 2's, too, but type 1's don't make the insulin to counterbalance them.
    • Eat your vegetables. It takes about 150 grams (five ounces) of vegetables a day to make a difference in your HbA1C as well as your triglyceride levels and waistline [5]. That's five servings of vegetables a day. Part of the reason eating your vegetables makes a difference is that you tend to eat fewer high-carbohydrate foods when you eat veggies, especially greens. 
    • Go to the spa for a few weeks. Americans may find the idea "out there," but many European health plans pay for spa treatments. A French study found that working out 15 to 20 hours a week at a spa for two to three weeks helped keep HbA1C levels low for the next year. [6]
    • Practice pranayama. Prayanama is a yoga-inspired breathing exercise. It's easy to find how-to guides to pranayama online. Regular practice of pranayama is associated with lower hemoglobin A1C, and also slower rates of age-related cognitive decline. [7]
    • Lift weights. Aerobic exercise doesn't do a lot to lower hemoglobin A1C levels naturally, but doing weight lifting as your only form of exercise will help [8]. Oddly enough, programs that combine weight lifting with aerobic exercise don't lower HbA1C, although your blood sugar levels will be lower a few hours after each workout [9]. In fact, your blood sugar levels may be so much lower that you run the risk of hypoglycemia. There's a simple way to avoid that. Do really hard, huff and puff aerobic exercise for just 10 seconds before you start your weight lifting routine. The stress of the aerobic exercise signals your liver to release sugar into your bloodstream, but if you do this for only 10 seconds you will raise your blood sugar levels just enough to avoid hypoglycemia after you lift weights [10].
    • Give blood. When you give blood, you aren't just giving your glycosylated hemoglobin to someone else. You are potentially helping to save a life, and you are reducing your body's stores of iron, which often interfere with your ability to respond to insulin. [11] It's the socially responsible way to lower your hemoglobin A1C levels naturally. The effects of regular blood donation aren't huge, but they are measurable, and you may improve your own health as you help someone else.

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