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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Of the diet cola drinks - Coke Zero, Pepsi Max and so on - is there one that is better option to drink?
Fizzy or soft drinks are not recommended as a regular part of healthy eating. If you are going to drink soft drinks, then the diet or no sugar drinks are better option. No particular diet cola is recommended over another.

Q: I have type 2 diabetes, can I still donate blood?
The Australian Red Cross states that if your diabetes is well managed by either diet and/or oral medications and you have no complications such as eye, blood vessel related or kidney problems then you are still able to donate blood. For those on insulin, you can find out your eligibility by phoning their hotline, but this should not be a problem unless you have used bovine (cattle-derived) insulin in the past. Bovine insulins were used prior to the 1980s. Call Medical Services on 13 14 95 or access their website to find out if you are eligible to donate.

Q: I don’t have diabetes, my doctor just told me I have a ‘touch of sugar’ but what does this mean?
This is a common statement by people sent to see us and without any pathology test results it is hard for us to determine what the doctor may mean by this. What we do know is that there is no such thing as a ‘touch of sugar’. Therefore, this could mean you have pre-diabetes, or you may in fact have type 2 diabetes but that the test result was only just over the diagnostic mark. Another common saying is that people have ‘borderline’ diabetes; again this refers to their glucose levels being close to the diagnostic mark. We would encourage anyone told they have a touch of sugar or borderline diabetes to discuss this further with their doctor or obtain their pathology results and to make an appointment to see the educators at Healthy Living NT.

Q: Which is better – brown, white or raw sugar?
The short answer is they’re all the same. Sugars are carbohydrates and like all carbohydrate they provide a source of energy in the form of glucose in our diet. Raw or brown sugars are thought to be ‘healthier’ than white sugar because of their colour. This is not the case. All sugars are made up of sucrose. The difference in colour relates to the amount of processing the sucrose has gone through where the crystal size and molasses content and therefore colour are changed; the additional nutrients in the sugars with the presence of extra molasses are minimal and the energy or kilojoule content remain the same between the different types. As with all carbohydrates, excess energy will be stored by the body as fat. 

Sugar is considered ‘empty’ kilojoules as it does not provide any beneficial nutrients. Too much sugar in the diet can contribute to health problems including obesity and tooth decay and can make it difficult to manage blood glucose levels within target range in diabetes.  The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends that all Australians limit their intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars such as confectionary, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials and fruit drinks.

Q: I have diabetes, should I monitor my Blood Glucose Levels (BGLs) at home?
This is very individual for everyone. Your doctor may have recommended for you to self-monitor your BGLs. This often means that they would see the information gathered to be important in your individual diabetes management plan. There are pros and cons to self-monitoring and of course, if the testing is either done with tests that are not useful (taken at the wrong time of day) or is not acted upon, then the act of self-monitoring is pointless. If you are self-monitoring BGLs  but don’t think you are getting the most out of it, or are interested but want to know what would actually help in your diabetes management, see your diabetes educator. Make the effort of self-monitoring BGLs worth it.

Q: What is the difference between Blood Glucose Levels and Blood Sugar Levels?
Glucose is a type of sugar that is made in a person’s body from the breakdown of carbohydrate found in the diet. It is not the same type of sugar that is used in coffee, cakes or sweets (sucrose). The terms blood glucose levels and blood sugar levels are sometimes used interchangeably to describe the amount of glucose in your blood. This can be confusing for some people as the term ‘blood sugar’ is often mistaken for ordinary sugar (sucrose) that you buy from the shops. For this reason, we encourage people to use the term blood glucose levels to avoid confusion.

Q: Can I use a lancet more than once?
Yes, but it is not recommended. It is advised that you change your lancet after each use, as they are designed for single use only. Each time you re-use a lancet the needle starts to blunt. If you continue to use the blunt needle you may encounter the following problems; increased pain on testing, lack of finger sensitivity, callus development, bruising and scarring.

Q: Can I break my tablets or capsules in half to make them easier to swallow?
Not all tablets or capsules can be safely broken in half. Some tablets have a special coating to contain the medicine and to control how quickly the medicine is released to the body. The coating is designed to dissolve slowly in the body and also to make sure the medicine is delivered to the right part of the gut to be absorbed properly. If the coating is damaged by breaking, cutting or crushing, all of the medicine will be released immediately into your body or will be delivered to the wrong part of the gut and won’t be absorbed properly. This can have severe side effects. Even if a tablet has a scored line in the middle it is important that you consult with your doctor or pharmacist before crushing or breaking any tablet or capsules.

Q: Where do I dispose of my sharps (needle/ lancets)?
For people with diabetes who monitor their blood glucose levels or inject insulin, the correct disposal of sharps associated is vitally important. Use of a commercially appropriate sharps container which meet Australian standards is strongly recommended. Soft plastic bottles, containers or glass bottles are NOT recommended. Sharps themselves and sharps containers should NOT be disposed in general garbage where they may pose a danger to other people. Sharps containers are available for purchase from Healthy Living NT offices in Darwin and Alice Springs and can be returned to these offices when full, plus most local pharmacies. In remote communities containers are often available from local health clinics.

The following NTAHC (NT Aids and Hepatitis Council) offices within the Northern Territory have disposal bin facilities for all sharps containers in:

Address:46 Woods Street
Phone: 08 8944 7777

Address: Palmerston Health Precinct, 3 Gurd Street 
Phone: 08 8931 3676

Alice Springs
Address:14 Railway Terrace  
Phone: 08 8953 2925