Do you know what A1C is and why it matters to you?
No, A1C is not some type of algebraic problem that you might have grazed over in junior high school.
A1C, HbA1C test determines your average blood sugar (glucose) over the last two to three months. The glucose is the type of sugar in your bloodstream which is derived from the foods you consume. Glucose is what our cells use for energy and is important to the quality of our lives. However if you have too much blood sugar, it can and will destroy the quality of your life.
When we consume anything that contains sugars, insulin is secreted which opens up your body’s cell to accept this glucose. The problem is that when we consume too much sugar, over a period of time, our bodies either quit producing enough insulin, or we become insulin resistant. Either scenario is not a good thing to occur. Your blood sugar levels are something that everyone needs to manage through healthy nutrition and exercise. Otherwise, you will pay for the consequences of your nutritional and lifestyle habits later on at some point in your life when you become a type 2 diabetic.
When we have a high A1C, damage begins occurring within all of our cellular structure. This often manifests in foot ulcers that do not want to heal, as well as diabetic retinopathy where you can go permanently blind.
Are your extremities, or you eyesight worth the junk foods you might consume daily, if not multiple times per day?
Only a fool does not take their A1C seriously!
High A1C levels are a sign of high blood glucose from diabetes. Glucose in your blood sticks to hemoglobin, a protein in your red blood cells. As your blood glucose levels increase, more of your hemoglobin will be coated with glucose. An A1C test measures the percentage of your red blood cells that have glucose-coated hemoglobin.
An A1C test can show your average glucose level for the past three months because:
- Glucose sticks to hemoglobin for as long as the red blood cells are alive.
- Red blood cells live about three months. (1)
Pay attention here – type 2 diabetes can cause serious health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage. Only fools believe they can control their blood sugar by continuing to eat everything their heart desires with the belief they can simply check their glucose and then take their diabetes medicine as required. That is not how blood sugar levels and diabetes are meant to be managed. Yes, you need to monitor your blood sugar. But, you also need to be not eating crap that can raise your blood sugar in the first place. One with diabetes needs to manage their blood sugar before it gets too high rather than lowering it with medicines after it has risen to unacceptable levels. Sadly, we see this far too often with diabetics.
Now for a deeper understanding of A1C
HgbA1c is hemoglobin that is glycated (covered with) with sugar. Hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to all the cells of the body. Therefore it is quite obvious to even the most casual of observers that hemoglobin is an important component of red blood cells (RBCs).
Nearly all cells in the human body need oxygen to power them. Once hemoglobin is glycated, it will remain that way until the red blood cell dies. Red blood cells live an average of three to four months which is why your A1C level indicates your average glucose over the last few months.
A1C results are expressed as the percentage of all hemoglobin that is glycated. An A1C of 7.0% means your blood is 7% sugar and your average blood glucose level would be 154 mg/dl, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). You can use this calculator to convert your A1C to an estimated average blood glucose number. (2)
Now, think back to earlier when I told about how high blood sugar levels damage cells.
A normal A1C level is below 5.7%, a level of 5.7% to 6.4% indicates prediabetes, and a level of 6.5% or more indicates diabetes. Within the 5.7% to 6.4% prediabetes range, the higher your A1C, the greater your risk is for developing type 2 diabetes.
In people with diabetes, an A1C under 7% is actually considered as good control of it. Dangerous levels of A1C begin at about 9% or higher. My friends, an A1C above 9% increases the risk of long-term complications like blindness, nerve damage, and kidney failure.
That all sounds like fun doesn’t it?
Studies are conclusive that high A1C levels increase your risk of severe diabetes complications. Blood vessel damage usually begins at A1C levels above 7%. Your risk of health complications that can destroy your lifestyle significantly increases at A1Cs above 9%. Seriously, is there really anything that you eat that is worth this?
Aren’t you worth it to eat right?
Heart Disease and Stroke
People with diabetes are at an increased risk of heart disease. Chronic high blood sugar levels can damage nerves and blood vessels that control the heart.
Diabetics also tend to develop heart disease younger than those without diabetes.
The longer you have diabetes, the more likely it is you will also have heart disease. This is a result of the buildup of plaque in the walls of your coronary arteries—the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to your heart.
Plaque – cholesterol, fat, and cellular waste – builds up in a process known as atherosclerosis. This decreases blood flow to the heart, which can cause a heart attack.
Decreased blood flow to the brain can also cause a stroke. Diabetes is linked to an increased risk of stroke and higher rates of mortality from stroke.
Diabetes also increases your risk of other heart disease risk factors. These include:
Additionally, diabetes increases your risk of heart failure, which means your heart can’t pump blood very well if at all. Please pass that carton of Chunky Monkey Ice Cream to me now…
And just as we are beginning to have fun with A1C along comes:
High blood sugar can cause eye damage, leading to poor vision and vision loss.
Diabetic eye diseases can largely be prevented by managing your blood sugar levels. But you are not going to do this by always eating junk foods!
Over time, high blood glucose levels damage the tiny blood vessels in the back of your eyes. Damaged blood vessels may leak fluid and cause swelling. New blood vessels that form may be weak. These blood vessels can bleed into the middle part of the eye, cause scarring, or dangerously increase pressure inside your eye. Look at your surrounding loved ones and ask yourself if lackadaisical A1C management is worth never being able to see them again…
Nerve damage caused by diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy. High blood sugar damages your nerves, which stop sending messages to different parts of your body. Oh boy, nerve damage sounds exciting doesn’t it? A woman I know just had to have her leg amputated because of this. And, this was after having two of her toes amputated first!
Nerve damage can cause problems ranging from mild numbness to severe pain. Half of all people with diabetes have nerve damage.
Common types of neuropathy in people with diabetes include:
- Peripheral nerve damage: This affects hands, feet, legs, and arms. The most common type of diabetic nerve damage. Generally starts in both feet at once.
- Autonomic nerve damage: This affects the heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs, or eyes.
- Proximal nerve damage: This affects nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks, legs, abdomen, and chest.
- Focal nerve damage: This affects single nerves, most often in your hand, head, torso, or leg
Symptoms of nerve damage include:
- Muscle cramps
- Poor balance
- Problems with coordination
- Sharp, shooting pains
- Tingling or pins and needles
- Urinary or bowel incontinence
Maintaining a lower A1C is the best way to prevent or delay diabetic nerve damage. And the best way to accomplish this is to eat a healthy diet while watching the total carbohydrate intake your doctor recommends for each meal or snack.
High A1C levels increase the risk of diabetic kidney disease. One in three adults with diabetes has diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease).
Just the same as with the eyes, heart, and nerves, high blood glucose damages blood vessels in the kidneys. When that happens, the kidneys are less able to filter out waste products and extra fluid.
Diabetic nephropathy typically does not have any early symptoms. As the condition worsens, it can cause:
- Confusion and difficulty concentrating
- High blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- More frequent urination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Persistent itching
- Protein in the urine
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen feet, ankles, hands, or eyes
Many people with diabetes also develop high blood pressure, which can also damage the kidneys. (3)
But wait, there is more to the joy of high A1C levels!
High blood glucose also increases the sugar content in your saliva. This exposes the mouth, teeth, and gums to more sugar, germs, and plaque. This can irritate gums, causing gum disease. (3)
If all of this information about A1C does not cause you to take it seriously, know that you will be in my prayers. As a Christian man, I love my neighbors as myself. It is our desire to help people to become healthier individuals. God created us perfectly, we are wondrously made creatures. And, it is our duty and responsibility to God, ourselves, and our loved ones that we take care of our health to the absolute best of our abilities. If you are overweight, I recommend that you see your doctor and get your A1C tested for. This way you might be able to ward off diabetes if you have not already become so.
A prayer for you to remember.
Lord, lift me up for Your blessings today. I pray that you will anoint me with strength and self care today, tomorrow, and always. I pray that You will grace me with patience and wisdom. I pray that You will encourage me throughout the day to take the correct steps to walk proudly, and behave well. I pray all of these things in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
(1) Medline Plus, National Library of Medicine