November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. A helpful acronym to know and share is the “ABCs of Diabetes.”
A is for A1c
A1c is a blood test that looks at what blood glucose (“sugar”) levels have been averaging for the past 2-to-3 months. For example, if an A1c is 8 percent then the estimated average glucose value is 183. This means for the last 2-to-3 months the daily glucose readings have been trending in the 180 range.
High blood glucose levels over time make it difficult for the body to function properly. It “rusts out the pipes” so to speak and can damage body systems like kidney, nerve and vision.
An A1c of less than 7 percent is recommended for most people with diabetes. Discuss with your physician what level is appropriate for you. Routine A1c evaluations are necessary every 3-to-6 months to assist with decision making about your diabetes treatment plan.
B is for Blood Pressure
Often with diabetes, people only think of glucose levels. But diabetes affects the whole body and has a great impact on cardiovascular health. With high blood pressure the body’s blood vessels are constricted (imagine a pinched garden hose and the noise it makes when the water can’t get through).
High blood pressure restricts blood flow, causes the heart to work harder, and strains blood vessels. Over time this can lead to problems like stroke and heart attack. And similar to high glucose levels, high blood pressure can damage other body systems like kidney, nerve and vision.
High blood pressure coupled with high A1c elevates risk even more. Have blood pressure monitored at each health care visit and take blood pressure medication as scheduled. Talk with your physician about what blood pressure target is best for you.
C is for Cholesterol Panel
This test measures blood fats. Altered blood fat levels clogs blood vessels and impair blood flow. Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol can lead to health problems like stroke and heart disease. A yearly cholesterol evaluation is recommended.
The ABCs of diabetes are building blocks for prevention. Learn your A1c, blood pressure, cholesterol numbers so changes can be caught early and treated. With more “tools” in the 21st century diabetes tool box, diabetes-related health problems can be delayed or even prevented.
Noonan, MS, RN, CDE, is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator for Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.