Did you know your A1c actually translates to a blood sugar level and range? Your eAG (estimated average blood glucose) is an extremely helpful way to understand why your A1c is or is not at your goal.
Use the American Diabetes Association’s handy calculator to translate A1c levels to an average blood sugar level and overall range.
12% = 298 mg/dL (240 – 347)
11% = 269 mg/dL (217 – 314)
10% = 240 mg/dL (193 – 282)
9% = 212 mg/dL (170 –249)
8% = 183 mg/dL (147 – 217)
7% = 154 mg/dL (123 – 185)
6% = 126 mg/dL (100 – 152)
This means, for example, that if you’re trying to get your A1c under 8 percent, but it just doesn’t seem to budge, it might be time to look more honestly at where your blood sugar is sitting all day.
If you’re frequently 180 mg/dL after eating, and it doesn’t come back down as your mealtime insulin dose works its way through your system, then you’re likely spending a large majority of your day around 180 mg/dL. Which easily translates to an A1c in the 8s.
4 Ways to Lower Your Average Blood Sugar
If you want to get below 8 percent, you’ll need to strive for a lower range, but there are a variety of ways you could approach this depending on your current lifestyle habits and medications regimen.
Let’s take a quick look at each option that you could discuss with your healthcare team.
- Increasing your background insulin. Even a 1-unit increase in your background insulin can have a huge impact on your overall blood sugar levels. If you’re thinking, “But I already have too many lows!” then ask yourself: how often are you correcting highs? One sign of too little background insulin is constantly having to correct highs. It can lead to frequent lows because you’re stacking correction insulin on top of mealtime insulin. By increasing your background insulin dose, you’ll prevent needing all of those extra correction doses.
- Increasing your mealtime dose. Do you start the meal in-range but are constantly stuck in the high 100s or low 200s 2 to 3 hours after eating? You could very easily need a small boost in your mealtime insulin dose or “insulin-to-carbohydrate” ratio. You would not want to make this change at the same time as making an adjustment in your background insulin. Talk to your healthcare team about where to start!
- Get more physical activity! If you’re using excuses like “I’m too tired” or “I don’t have time” to exercise, it’s time for a wake-up call. Do exercises while you watch TV, go for a 30-minute walk as soon as you get home from work or during your lunch break, wake up 30 minutes earlier to exercise in the morning. You can make it happen. Everyone is busy, but many make exercise a priority. Your body isn’t tired after sitting at a desk all day, it’s desperate for you to get up and move!
- Reduce your carbs at one meal of the day. You don’t have to eat a crazy zero-carb diet in order to improve your blood sugar levels, but simply taking the processed starch or grains out of one more meal of the day and replacing those calories with vegetables can make a big difference. How many sugary drinks do you consume in a day? Can you cut back? How many times a day do you eat dessert? Can you cut back to only once per day? You don’t have to eat perfectly! Just choose one legit change you can make that’ll improve the overall health of your nutrition habits.
And of course, check your blood sugar frequently! You won’t know what your blood sugar is if you aren’t checking it.
By Ginger Vieira
Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the author of 4 books: Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes, Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, Emotional Eating with Diabetes, Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger creates content regularly for Diabetes Strong, Diathrive, MySugr, DiabetesMine, Healthline, and her YouTube Channel. Her background includes a B.S. in Professional Writing, certifications in cognitive coaching, Ashtanga yoga, and personal training with several records in drug-free powerlifting. She lives in Vermont with two kiddos and two dogs.
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