Since learning my son has Type I Diabetes, I feel like we’re learning a whole language. The latest term is A1c.

When you have diabetes, doctors keep track of your overall blood sugar levels with an A1c blood test. It’s an important measure that tells you how well you’ve managed your blood sugar over the past three months.

(By the way, A-1 Steak Sauce? 3 carbs per Tbsp. Just in case you’re counting.)

Here’s how the American Diabetes Association explains it: Hemoglobin is found inside red blood cells. Its job is to carry oxygen from the lungs to all the cells of the body. Hemoglobin, like all proteins, links up with sugars such as glucose. When you have uncontrolled diabetes you have too much sugar in your bloodstream. This extra glucose enters your red blood cells and links up (or glycates) with molecules of hemoglobin. The more excess glucose in your blood, the more hemoglobin gets glycated. It is possible to measure the percentage of hemoglobin, or A1c, in the blood.

If you don’t have diabetes, your A1c range should be between 4-6%. The goal for adults with diabetes is less than 7% – that’s what you need to avoid complications. The goal for children is often higher, but a lot depends on the doctor and family treatment plan. Too low a percentage may mean the child is experiencing too many lows and that can lead to a whole other set of complications.

When Benny was first diagnosed in December, his A1c was over 11%. Pretty bad. By late January, we had it down to 8.9%. At this most recent visit, we got the great news it was down to 7.1%.

That means we’re doing a good job of controlling Benny’s blood sugar. What it really does is give me some comfort when we get a really high reading or Benny has a scary low. That A1c helps me keep the moment in perspective; I can look at it as just a moment in his overall care.