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Daily exercise can help lower your A1C.

If you have diabetes, you are probably familiar with checking your blood sugar. You may also be used to your doctor having you take an A1C blood test a few times a year.

But it can feel overwhelming when your doctor sets a goal of lowering you A1C before your next test. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take each day to manage your diabetes or keep prediabetes from progressing.

The greatest impacts you can make are in two areas: food choices and physical activity. Developing a daily routine for your diabetes care is a simple, reliable way to ensure you’re doing everything you can to protect your health and lower your A1C.

A1C-lowering diet tips

  • Plan your meals. When you must be careful about what you eat, sticking to a daily pattern for meal and snack times takes the guesswork out of your food choices. When you know what you’ll eat and when, you eliminate the stress of hunger and having to make a last-minute decision. Planning portions in advance prevents overeating. Scheduling snacks between meals will help you avoid mindless snacking. Monitoring your intake of carbohydrates is key to managing diabetes and lowering A1C. Meal planning will help you choose healthier, nutrient-dense carbs like sweet potatoes or fruit. You can plan ahead to avoid processed foods, trans fats and added sugar. Preparing your portions in advance gives you more control over how much you eat at a time. All of these factors can help you meet your A1C goal.
  • Drink plenty of water. Everybody needs water. Staying hydrated helps us breathe easier, improves our cardiovascular health and flushes toxins from our bodies. For people with diabetes, drinking enough water is even more important. Any amount of dehydration throughout your day can affect blood sugar. To make hydration a part of your daily routine, get into the habit of carrying a reusable water bottle to help you stay mindful of your water intake. Know how many ounces your bottle holds and how many times you’ll need to refill it throughout the day to get enough water. Bonus: If your bottle has a reusable straw, you’re more likely to keep sipping throughout the day.

A1C-lowering tips for exercise

  • Every effort counts. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or daunting. Even getting up to move your body for two minutes every hour has been shown to reduce the risks associated with diabetes.
  • Daily activity. If you are staying home more, you may be spending more time sitting than you usually do. Making daily movement a part of your routine is especially important when you live with diabetes. When you are physically active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin, allowing it to work more effectively. Regular exercise will also make you feel better and sleep better. Making time in your daily schedule for a walk, stretching with yoga or an online exercise video will take the stress out of the pressure to work out.
  • Get advice from your doctor. Your doctor can recommend the right balance of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise. He or she can also help you find the best time of day so that your workout routine is coordinated with your meal and medication schedules.
  • Check your blood sugar. Exercise can lower your blood sugar levels even up to a day later, especially if the activity is new to you or you're exercising at a more intense level. It is important to test your blood sugar level before, during and after exercise.

There’s a lot you can do to meet your A1C goals. Making these simple, powerful changes to your daily routine will help you take control of your blood sugar, lower your A1C and live a healthier life.

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