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Study Shows Strides in Diabetes Care

Diabetes Patients Doing a Better Job at Meeting Blood Sugar Control Benchmark
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 15, 2008 -- There's a positive new trend among U.S. diabetes patients: better blood sugar control.

Researchers report that it's becoming more common for adults with diabetes to meet a key diabetes benchmark: having a hemoglobin A1c level lower than 7%.

Hemoglobin A1c, checked by a blood test, gauges blood sugar control over the past two to three months. Better blood sugar control means less chance of diabetes complications.

A new study shows a decline in recent years in average hemoglobin A1c levels among U.S. adults with diabetes. Here's a quick look at those averages:

  • 7.82% in 1999-2000
  • 7.47% in 2001-2002
  • 7.18% in 2003-2004

Those numbers, based on blood tests taken by diabetes patients in national health surveys, "may indicate that diabetes care improved dramatically between 1999 and 2004," the study states.

(What has made a difference in YOUR life with diabetes? Join the discussion on WebMD's Type 2 Diabetes Support Group message board.)

Room for Improvement

Despite the positive trend, the latest average hemoglobin A1c level noted in the study is still above optimal levels.

The researchers' message: Keep the trend going.

"These results should not breed complacency about the need for further efforts to achieve glycemic [blood sugar] control," write Thomas Hoerger, PhD, of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C. and colleagues.

Their findings appear in January's edition of Diabetes Care.

One of the researchers who worked on the study -- the CDC's Jinan Saaddine, MD -- reported other improvements in U.S. diabetes care, including better self-monitoring of blood sugar levels.

But diabetes care isn't where experts want it to be. Last year, a government report showed that most adults with diabetes aren't getting three annual medical tests, including hemoglobin A1c tests.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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