Wellness

What Happens When A1C Levels Are Too High?

By Bridget Reed
Medically Reviewed by:

Johannah Gregg, DNP, FNP-C

What Happens When A1C Levels Are Too High?

May 27, 2024

High A1C levels can take a toll on your overall health. At Herbaly, we know that understanding these numbers can feel intimidating and confusiong, especially if you're trying to maintain optimal wellness. 

High A1C readings are a signal, a heads-up that your body needs more attention, particularly if managing diabetes or avoiding its development is on your radar. So, why do these figures get so much focus, and how can they shape your health strategy? 

Let’s break down what A1C is and explore its significant role in everyday health management.

What Is A1C and Why Does It Matter?

When it comes to understanding your long-term health, A1C is more than just a metric. Here’s why this number is a key player:

  • Glimpse into Glucose: A1C tests (also known as the hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c test) provide a long-term average of your blood sugar levels, shedding light on how well you're managing glucose over time — not just day-to-day. “The red blood cells used to monitor A1C are regenerated every 90 days, thus allowing the ability to be reflective of positive and negative lifestyle choices to keep an accurate picture of overall well-being,” notes Johannah Gregg, DNP, FNP-C. 
  • Guide for Diabetes: It's essential for diagnosing diabetes types 1 and 2, and prediabetes, giving a clear picture of where you stand. 
  • Preventive Power: High A1C levels can be a forewarning, allowing you to adjust your habits before encountering more serious health problems and medical conditions like heart disease or kidney damage.

Your A1C results are key for gaining a better understanding of your current wellness and risk factors for health conditions.

What Is a Healthy A1C Level?

So, what exactly is a healthy A1C level anyway? Whether you're thumbing through health blogs or chatting with your healthcare provider, you'll find that this number carries a lot of weight when it comes to understanding your blood sugar health. Here's a quick guide to help you navigate what those A1C numbers mean:

Non-Diabetic Range

For those without diabetes, a typical A1C level generally ranges from about 4% to 5.6%. This range indicates that your blood glucose levels have been generally well within the target range.

Prediabetes Indication

Landing anywhere from 5.7% to 6.4% generally puts you in the prediabetes zone. This doesn’t mean diabetes is inevitable, but it’s a heads-up that your blood sugar has been consistently higher than normal, suggesting it's time to embrace healthier habits.

Diabetes Threshold

An A1C level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests typically confirms the presence of diabetes. This signals that your average blood sugar level has been quite high and that interventions to manage it might be necessary.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes — aka diabetes mellitus— might just seem like another health term that gets thrown around, but it represents a significant concern worldwide. Essentially, diabetes is a condition where your body struggles to manage and regulate glucose (sugar) levels in your blood effectively. 

This can happen for a variety of reasons and comes in different forms:

  • Type 1 Diabetes: This is an autoimmune condition where the body mistakenly attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone that helps your body use or store the glucose it gets from food.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: More common than Type 1, this type occurs when your body either resists the effects of insulin or doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level.
  • Gestational Diabetes: This type affects some women during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth, though it can increase the mother's risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

So, why is diabetes a big deal? Well, unmanaged diabetes can lead to a cascade of health issues that affect almost every part of the body. 

How Does High Blood Glucose Impact Health?

Here’s how high blood sugar can impact your health if left unchecked:

  • Heart Disease and Blood Vessel Damage: High glucose levels can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart. Over time, this increases the risk of heart disease and can lead to complications like heart attack or stroke.
  • Fertility Damage: “High glucose can result in irregular or heavy menstrual cycles, thus lowering the chance for fertility and manageable menstrual cycles,” notes Gregg. 
  • Nerve Damage (Neuropathy): Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs, which can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain.
  • Kidney Damage (Nephropathy): The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system, leading to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease.
  • Eye Damage (Retinopathy): Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina, potentially leading to blindness. It's also associated with a higher risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.

Managing diabetes effectively and maintaining controlled A1C levels are key to preventing these complications. That's why understanding your A1C levels and what they mean plays such an important role in diabetes care and overall health maintenance. 

By keeping these levels in a healthy range, you're not just managing diabetes — you're taking a proactive stance against its potential consequences, ensuring you lead a healthier, more vibrant life.

How To Support Overall Healthy A1C Levels

Maintaining healthy A1C levels can be a delicate dance, but with a few smart moves, you can keep your rhythm smooth and steady. At Herbaly, we're all about empowering you with simple, effective strategies to enhance your wellness journey. 

Here are 10 tips to help you maintain your A1C at a happy level:

Embrace Whole Foods

Focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. These foods are not only nourishing but also help stabilize blood sugar levels. Try to limit your intake of refined carbohydrates, as these can spike your blood sugar.

Cut the Sugary Drinks

Replace soda and sugary beverages with healthier options. Why not swap them for a cup of our soothing Glucose Functional Tea? It’s not only delicious, but also supports your wellness goals.

Get Moving

Incorporate regular exercise into your routine, and aim to achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss if your current weight is in an unhealthy range. 

Whether it’s a brisk walk, a cycle around the park, or a yoga session, moving your body helps lower blood sugar levels, support blood flow, and improve insulin sensitivity.

Monitor Your Health

Keep track of your blood glucose levels with regular testing. Whether through continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) or traditional blood sugar testing, staying informed helps you manage your health proactively.

Manage Stress

High stress can affect your blood sugar levels. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or your favorite hobbies to keep stress at bay.

Sweeten Smartly

When you need a touch of sweetness, opt for our Organic Stevia Leaf Sweetener instead of sugar. It's a healthier alternative that can keep your sweet tooth satisfied without spiking your blood sugar.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps regulate blood sugar levels and aids in overall metabolic function.

Fiber Up

Foods high in fiber, such as legumes, whole grains, and vegetables, slow carb absorption and help control blood sugar spikes.

Limit Alcohol and Smoking

Alcohol can unpredictably affect blood sugar levels, and smoking increases the risk of diabetes complications. Reducing both can significantly benefit your A1C levels and overall health.

Consult Your Healthcare Provider

Regular check-ups with your care provider are vital. They can offer personalized advice and adjust your treatment plan as needed to keep your health on track.

What If Your A1C Levels Are Too Low?

While much focus is placed on high A1C levels, did you know that too low can also pose problems? Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, might not sound as threatening, but it can be just as risky. 

Low blood sugar levels can lead to dizziness, confusion, weakness, and in severe cases, loss of consciousness or seizures.

Overmedication, skipping meals, or excessive physical activity without adequate nutritional support can drop your A1C to a dangerous level. It's important to maintain your A1C within the healthy range to avoid the risks associated with both high and low levels.

Maintaining a balanced A1C helps safeguard your overall health, preventing complications that can arise from unbalanced blood glucose levels.

The Bottom Line

At Herbaly, we understand that managing A1C levels is a vital part of maintaining your health, especially if you're dealing with diabetes.

A1C is more than just a number — it's a reflection of your health over time and a tool that can help guide your lifestyle choices. By keeping your A1C levels in check, you're taking proactive steps towards a healthier life, minimizing the risk of diabetes complications and giving you a more vibrant wellness journey.

If you ever feel overwhelmed by managing your A1C levels or need a little extra support making those healthy lifestyle changes, remember that Herbaly is here to help. 

Our Functional Teas are designed to support you in your quest for overall wellness. So why not take that step today? 

Sources:

All About Your A1C | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Diabetes Diagnosis & Tests | American Diabetes Association (ADA)

What is diabetes? | CDC

Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, & Stroke | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases | NIDDK

Hypoglycemia - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

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