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How to Understand 3 Important Metrics for Type 2 Diabetes: A1C, Blood Pressure and Lipids

woman doctor checking man's blood pressure

If you have type 2 diabetes, managing your health depends on monitoring certain important metrics and knowing what they mean. It sometimes feels like a lot to track, but Level2 has created a guide to help you understand the measures that matter most: Blood sugar (and A1C), blood pressure and lipid levels.

A1C, or Blood Sugar

Your A1C can be measured in a blood test done by your health provider, and it shows your average blood glucose over the past two to three months. People living with diabetes should be aiming for a number of 7 or lower. That means less than 7 percent of the protein in your red blood cells (known as hemoglobin) is glycated, or covered in sugar.

 Testing: How often should you have your doctor test your A1C? Typically, a test should be done every three to six months, but it depends on your doctor’s recommendation. Talk to your health provider to determine what your individual A1C goals are and how frequently to test.

Target Blood Glucose Range: Level2 members can use their continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to monitor their blood glucose levels. It’s important to monitor because it helps to understand what works and doesn’t work for you – from nutrition to movement to medication to stress. Check with your doctor to identify your target blood glucose range, and use your CGM to learn what foods and activities help keep your glucose levels within range.

What does the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommend for blood sugar goals for people with type 2 diabetes? Here is a quick guide:

  • Waking up or before a meal (fasting): Between 80 and 130 mg/dL
  • After a meal: Under 180 mg/dL
  • At bedtime: Between 90 and 150 mg/dL

Blood Pressure

Although you’ve probably been having your blood pressure checked for many years, you might not know that blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. It’s measured using two numbers that are written as a ratio. The top number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart squeezes or contracts. The bottom number, diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure when your heart rests between beats.

High blood pressure is common for people with type 2 diabetes, and it’s important to work to lower those numbers to prevent additional health problems, including heart attack and stroke.

Testing: Stay on top of your blood pressure numbers by asking what they are at every doctor’s appointment, and you can also learn yourself by checking at a local pharmacy or even purchasing an inexpensive blood pressure monitor to measure at home.

Target Blood Pressure Readings: A good typical reading is a top number at or below 120 and a bottom number at or below 80. High blood pressure or hypertension is diagnosed when a person has elevated numbers over a longer period of time. Lower blood pressure can be achieved through a combination of lifestyle changes (including a change in diet and increase in movement) and if needed, medications.

Lipids

Health blood pressure protects your heart when you have type 2 diabetes. The same is true for managing your lipids. (Cholesterol is a type of lipid.)

Abnormal high density lipoproteins (HDL), triglycerides and low density lipoproteins (LDL) can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Low levels of HDL and high levels of LDL and triglycerides in your blood can lead to heart attacks and strokes. A simple way to remember it: HDL is Healthy. LDL is Lethal. (Yes, it’s a little dramatic, but it works.)

Testing: A health provider can find your lipid levels with a routine blood test.

Target Lipid Readings: Healthy levels are an LDL reading of less than and an HDL reading of more than 40 milligrams per deciliter for men and 50 for women. Again, lifestyle changes can help lower your lipid levels — eating less saturated fat, cholesterol and avoiding trans-fats as much possible. Health providers also may prescribe drugs called statins that can help lower lipid levels.

Do you have questions or concerns about your numbers or how to learn them? Don’t hesitate to reach out to your Level2 care team on the Level2 Health app.

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