Diabetes Control: Lower Your A1C in 90 Days


Receiving a type 2 diabetes diagnosis was overwhelming.  I have always considered myself a healthy person.  I eat right and workout.  So, how could this be happening to me?  If this sounds familiar, take deep breath and know you’re not alone.  With the support of my loving husband, guidance of my physicians, diabetes self-management clinics hosted by UC San Diego Health Systems, and SmartDraw, I was able to successfully bring my A1C levels from 10.5 to 6.3 in just 90 days.

My ability to take control of my diabetes in such a short amount of time impressed not only my physicians but the medical team at UC San Diego Health Systems.  As a result, I was invited as a guest lecturer to teach a class at the University of California San Diego on patient self-management and the use of technology.  If you’re interested in reading more about my guest lecture read 5 Steps to Make Your Next Presentation or Sales Pitch Perfect.

a1c results2

It’s been a little over a year and based on my most recent A1C test results, I have been able to maintain normal levels.  In this week’s post I’ll share with you the 5 tips to help you or your loved one take control of their diabetes.  An easy way to remember the 5 tips is S.P.A.R.K.  To be honest, finding out that I have type 2 diabetes was the spark that I needed to live an even healthier life.

  • Stay Active

  • Plan Your Meals

  • Avoid Risk Factors

  • Recognize the Signs

  • Keep Track


Tip #1: Stay Active

Being active doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to run the next marathon.  It’s about having an active lifestyle.  There are a number of benefits to being physically active.  You’ll increase your energy levels as well as longevity.  At the same time you’ll decrease your glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and stress levels.

They recommend 3 types of physical activities: aerobic, resistance, and flexibility & stretching.  So, I decided to change my 30 minute morning cardio to 45 minutes and added pilates reformer classes 2x/week.

Use Your Smart Phone to Stay on Track

I have alarms for both my morning cardio workouts and my pilates reformer classes.  My physicians gave me the option to take insulin as part of my treatment.  I was determined to take control of my diabetes, so I took them up on their offer.  As you can see in the diagram below, I set a reminder for when and where to inject my insulin each day.

Phone Alarms2

SmartDraw Tip: You can insert photos or clip art into any diagram.  Navigate to the Insert Tab, select Picture.  Navigate to the appropriate file, click Open.  The image will appear in the Work Area.   

Take 10,000 Steps Every Day

My daily goal is to take 10,000 steps (approximately 5 miles) per day.  I wear a Fitbit One to track my steps throughout the day.  I won’t go anywhere without my Fitbit.

How to Add Steps to Your Work Day

  • Rather than IM, email, or phone, walk to a co-worker’s office to talk to them
  • When making a phone call, stand up and pace around as you talk
  • Don’s stand, pace – when waiting for the plane, bus, or metro
  • Take the stairs, instead of the elevator
  • Take a short walk after lunch

How to Add Steps to Your Day

  • When running errands, park further away and walk to your destination
  • Return the shopping cart all the way to the store, not to the cart port
  • Never use the drive through – get out, park, walk into the bank
  • During commercials, get up and walk around the house


Tip #2: Plan Your Meals

I’m often asked, “What’s a Diabetic Diet?”  My response, “A diabetic’s diet is a healthy diet.”

The Plate Method

One way to plan your meal, whether dining out or eating in, is to use a diabetic friendly version of The Plate Method during lunch and dinner.  When I do dine out, it’s not unusual for me to request a take-out box when the wait staff takes my order.  That way when my meal arrives, I simply set aside the portion of my plate that goes beyond the recommended amount.

plate method

SmartDraw Tip: To apply a shadow to an object use the Effects feature.  Select the object to which the shadow will be applied. Navigate to the Home Tab.  In the Effects drop-down menu select Shadow.  Select the appropriate shadow option. 

Basic Carb Counting Formula: One Carb Serving = 15 Grams of Carbohydrates

In my diabetes sell-management course, I learned that men can set a goal of 4-5 carb servings per meal, whereas women can aim for 3-4 carbs servings.  My typical day includes 3 meals (3-4 carb servings each) and 2-3 snacks (1 carb serving each).  I find it helpful to have a morning, afternoon, and evening snack to maintain my energy and proper blood sugar levels.

Portion Control

The portion you plan to consume my not be the same as the service size on the label.  Remember, if the label serving size is one cup and you eat two cups, you’re consuming twice the amount of calories, fat, and carbohydrates listed on the food label.

I usually prepare my meals using a food scale when I cook at home.  If you don’t have a scale handy, here’s a quick trick to measuring serving sizes.


Remember that a cup is about the size of your fist, the size of your palm is about the size of three ounces of cooked meat or fish, and an ounce of nuts is about a handful.

Tip #3: Avoid Risk Factors

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body is unable to use the insulin it makes.  Type 2 usually affects adult but it can begin at any time in your life.  Researchers do not fully understand why some people develop pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes while others don’t.  However, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is clear that certain factors increase the risk of having diabetes.

diabetes risk factors

SmartDraw Tip: With the exception of the scale and the beer foam symbols, each of the symbols in the diagram were created using various shapes, lines, and fills. 

Tip #4: Recognize the Signs

As part of my treatment I was prescribed to take metformin 2x/day, insulin 2x/day (9am and 9pm), and to test my glucose levels 4x/day (before meals and bedtime).  By testing my blood sugar before each meal I began to understand my body’s response to certain foods at various times of the day.  I kept detailed records of every test as well as the time of day.  With so much data, I decided to chart my results (see chart below).

5_By Meal Bedtime

SmartDraw Tip: You have the option to display or hide the data driving a particular chart.  In the diagram above, I have displayed the data to show that it is identical to the next chart.  Proving that this is a visual representation of the data I collected each day of my treatment.

Understanding the Diagram (above)

The goal is to remain consistent and within the target zone for that time of day.  During the day, I’m in the office and I usually pack a lunch that I planned the night before.  As you can see my fasting levels (blue) and lunch time (green) were the best.  The levels varied but only slightly, if at all.  As the day continues, you’ll see peaks and valleys develop (orange) with the most dramatic spikes appearing at bedtime (purple).  I have dinner with my husband as well as friends.   It was clear from the graph that when I’m dining with others, I need to be more mindful.

I always brought my SmartDraw charts and graphs to my doctor’s appointments. It allowed me to examine my strengths as well as my weaknesses.  My two physicians could also see it if was time to make a change in my treatment.

Tip #5: Keep Track

Keeping track of activities, meal times, and glucose levels was important to understanding my body.  At the end of each day, I would enter the values and then graph whether my glucose levels were in the target zone.  If I successfully met the goal of 81-110, I gave myself a star just like in grade school.

As noted previously, the information gathered in the chart below is the source of the data that created the previous layered graph.

5_Glucose Tracking Log w Insulin

Before I would share my records with my physicians, I wanted the opportunity to break down my results.  In other words, I wanted to explain the spikes whether extremely high or low.  In the chart below, I added an additional row called “Self Analysis.”

5_Glucose Tracking page 1

SmartDraw Tip: To apply shading to an object use the Fill feature.  Select the object.  Navigate to the Home Tab, select Gradient.  Select More Gradient.  Select the appropriate Style and Color options.  Click OK.

Start Keeping Track Today!

If you’d like to start keeping track today you can download a pdf version of the form below – just click here!

5_Daily Log Form