Improving My HbA1c and How You Can, Too

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In April, when I had surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, my HbA1c was 8.2%. It’s nothing I’m proud of, and it’s not one I would have undergone elective surgery with. I obviously was not planning on having emergency surgery.

Knowing that healing would be easier if my HbA1c were in more normal ranges, I tried very hard to get it down. And I succeeded. I am happy to announce that, as of last Thursday, my HbA1c was 6.2%. Sweet, huh?

To be sure, I’ve had trouble keeping my glucose up and the antibiotics I’ve been taking are doing a number on my stomach, so I don’t feel much like eating. I kind of mostly focus on fruits and veggies. And sugar-free frozen pops. I do indulge in chips and cheese puffs, but we get them in single-serving bags (the kind that was a normal size when I was a kid) and I limit myself to one bag.

I also know how to check my blood glucose in a way that tells me how different foods and activity affect my numbers.

Several years ago, I was talking with a man who has diabetes and asked him how he was doing. “Oh, great!” he exclaimed. “I stay around 130.” Then I asked him what his HbA1c was. It reflected a level that was much higher than 130.

When did he check? Every Saturday morning when he woke up. Period. So I suggested to him that he alternate checking before breakfast and dinner one day and before lunch and bedtime the next. And to occasionally check before he ate a meal and again two hours after he took his first bite.

The next time I saw him, he was full of excitement. “I tried what you told me and my sugar is all over the place!” he said.

It’s before and after eating that can really tell you how foods and activity affect your numbers. Roche, which makes Accu-Chek meters, pumps, and the like, has a program it calls “Testing in Pairs.” You can go to their Web site to get all kinds of information, plus a tool you can print out to help you organize your information.

Briefly, however, they use one example of a woman who adjusted her foods and portions to tighten up her control. It’s interesting that she still ate what she wanted, but improved her control by eating less of her favorites. Another example features a man who walked — or not — after a meal and shows how the activity affects his blood glucose levels. In both cases, the before and after glucose levels are recorded. The closer the postmeal number is to the premeal one, the better you’re doing.

I wish somebody had told me back in the day that activity can lower blood glucose. Or that I could eat my favorite foods if I watched my portion sizes. Nope. It was “2 vegetable exchanges, 1 fruit exchange and 1 meat exchange,” which pretty much eliminated Mom’s signature casserole.

Or what if I wanted one of my favorite summer meals: fresh vegetables from the garden and that’s all. Mom had me salivating last night when she described a meal of green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn from the garden in an e-mail to me. Yum! It will be a little longer for me, because she lives in South Carolina… and I’m farther north.

I’m glad that attitudes about the care and feeding of diabetes are changing and we can live a life that’s less stringent than just a decade or so ago.

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