Nearly 95 percent of patients with diabetes are diagnosed with the type 2 variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes increases risk for heart disease, stroke and other health complications, which is why researchers are constantly updating guidelines for proper diabetes management.
A1C tests measure blood sugar levels over a two- or three-month duration. A score of 6.5 percent indicates diabetes, but researchers at the American College of Physicians recently suggested that patients with type 2 diabetes should actually achieve a score of 7 to 8 percent.
Following these results, the researchers published an evidence-based guidance statement in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The ACP's analysis found that drugs targeted at an A1C below 7 percent did not offset complications or reduce risks, when compared to those treatments that target about 8 percent. Instead, scores above 7 percent did not negatively impact patient risk of death, heart attacks, strokes, kidney failures, amputations, visual impairment or neuropathy. This evidence shows that an A1C between 7 and 8 percent is ideal for patients with type 2 diabetes because it balances long-term benefits with potential harms, including low blood sugar levels, health concerns, medication issues and financial burdens.
The statement further recommended personalized blood sugar control goals for individual patients with type 2 diabetes. This means treatment plans will consider patient preferences, health conditions, life expectancies and financial situations. Plus, physicians should discuss the benefits and drawbacks of drug therapy options so patients fully understand the treatment options. Thus, these new guidelines are important for shaping the future of diabetes treatment.
While the new guidelines focus on drug therapy, the researchers noted that exercise, dietary changes, weight loss and other lifestyle choices can also be effective in reaching the new A1C target.
According to the Mayo Clinic, patients with diabetes should manage their blood sugar levels with healthy eating. A diabetes-friendly diet includes portion control and well-balanced meals that are coordinated with medication schedules. Of course diabetes patients should avoid sugar, especially in sweetened beverages and processed foods. They should also be careful with alcohol consumption, as those drinks can lower blood sugar.
The Mayo Clinic further recommended about 30 minutes of physical activity per day, but patients should talk to their doctors about the best time of day to work out and which exercises are best for their routines. However, the American Diabetes Association suggested general guidelines for exercise, which include a total of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise every week, spread out over at least three days without skipping more than two days in a row.