Dr Bee Yong Mong, Head, SingHealth Duke-NUS Diabetes Centre, and Senior Consultant at the Department of Endocrinology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH​), a me​mber of the SingHealth group, explains what diabetes "ABCs" mean, why they're important and how to control them.​

What are the ABCs of diabetes?

If you have diabetes, the most important thing you can do is to control your “ABC”:

  • ​“A” stands for HbA1c

    HbA1c is a blood test that shows what your average blood glucose has been over the last 3 months.
  • ​“B” stands for blood pressure

    If you have diabetes, controlling your blood pressure is just as important as controlling your blood glucose. High blood pressure puts you at risk for kidney disease, heart attack and stroke.
  • “C” stands for cholesterol

    Cholesterol is a substance found in the blood. LDL or “bad” cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels. It can cause a heart attack or a stroke. HDL or “good” cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from your blood vessels.

What should my diabetes ABC targets be?

Your ABC targets will depend on:

  1. How severe your diabetes is
  2. How old you are
  3. What other health problems you have.

Ask your doctor what your targets should be. Many people with diabetes aim for:

  • A1c level < 7%
  • Blood pressure < 140/90 mmHg or lower in some cases
  • LDL cholesterol level <2.6 mmol/L (100 mg/dL) or lower in some cases

Why are my diabetes ABCs so important?

Compared with people who do not have diabetes, people who have diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke. People with diabetes are also much more likely to get kidney disease.

By keeping your ABCs under control, you lower your risk of these problems.

How can I control my diabetes ABCs?

You should work together with your doctor to create a plan to keep your ABCs under control. Your plan might include:

1. Make the right choices for you

Choices you make every day about the foods you eat and the physical activities can have a big impact on your ABCs and your general health. Here are some things you can do:

  1. Make healthy food choices
  2. Be active
  3. Lose weight
  4. Stop smoking
  5. Avoid alcohol

Many of the lifestyle changes above can improve all 3 ABCs. For instance, being active and losing weight can help control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

2. Take your medications

Most people with diabetes take medications every day to control their blood glucose, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Ask your healthcare team:

  1. What your HbA1c, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are
  2. What your ABC targets should be,
  3. What can you do to reach your targets

Ref: O17