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What You Can Do to Improve Your Diabetes: Seven Ways to Improve Your A1C and Diabetes Outcomes

With a chronic disease, there are many aspects of your health that are not in your control. But that is not the full picture of your health. What is not in your control you can put aside and move on to the areas where you do have agency. This holds true with a common chronic disease: diabetes. While you can't change some parts of the disease, there is a lot you can do to improve your health your A1C. There are things you can do to impact your diabetes outcomes.

healthy food for diabetes

Seven Things You Can Do to Improve Your A1C and Diabetes Outcomes

  • Choose whole grains. Whole grains are higher in fiber, so they are digested slower. This can lead to a slower and lower rise in your blood sugar, and ultimately an improvement in A1C. The ultimate goal is for all or nearly all your grains to be whole grains. An occasional or rare whole grain choice likely won't be enough to impact your health.

  • Drink beverages that do not contain sugar. Water, seltzer water, brewed tea, unsweetened coffee, fruit-infused water are all great options. The more sugar-sweetened beverages you were drinking at baseline, the bigger impact you'll see when you avoid them. For some people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages throughout the day, avoiding them is enough to bring their blood sugar into their goal range and improve their A1C!

  • Eat a lot of vegetables. For many people, half-plate full of vegetables at least twice per day is a good goal. Non-starchy vegetables are high in fiber, low in carbs, and with attention to preparation method, delicious. Many people find that when they shift the proportions of foods on their plate to more vegetables and less carbohydrates, they find that their meals are satisfying and their blood sugars remain within their goal range. Over the long run, this will lead to an improvement in A1C.

  • Set up your home environment to help you. Buy the foods you would like to be eating, and don't buy the foods you'd prefer to eat less often. If you live with others, have a conversation with them about this. Discuss together how you can optimize your home environment to make it easier to make the choice you prefer to make while taking the other person's needs into account also.

  • Exercise. I can't emphasize this one enough. Exercise takes effort, time, and exertion. It often does not come naturally. But the health outcomes of regular exercise impact so many areas of reducing diabetes complications through improved blood sugar and A1C. Remember that exercise is not all or nothing. Many people will start with chair exercises, walking, exercise videos, or water aerobics. As time goes on you can decide to increase the intensity of your exercise, but that is not something you need to think about in the beginning. Choose something that you can do consistently.

  • Visit your medical provider. If you have not seen your doctor in a while, now is a great time to make an appointment. While getting medical information can be scary to some, it also can be actionable. You can find out what you can do with your current medical situation to improve your health. Maybe it will be seeing a podiatrist for a food exam, seeing an ophthalmologist for an eye exam, starting a new medication, or getting a referral to physical therapy to help with your mobility. Not knowing does not help. Knowing can get you the support you need to improve your A1C.

  • Take your medications as prescribed. There are many medications that can help improve your blood sugar and A1C. There are also many categories of diabetes medication, so they can really be customized to your exact medical needs. Medications take care of the part of the diabetes that is not in your hands--except it is because you can take medication for it. If you are having side effects, let your doctor know! Sometimes there are tips to help deal with the side effects, and sometimes your doctor may suggest trying something new. But you won't know without a discussion with your doctor.

Give some of these tips a try. With attention to your lifestyle, you can impove your health, your A1C, and your diabetes outcomes.

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