Ramadan and Your Health
By Rwoof Reshi, Engage Minnesota
Ramadan tests a Muslim’s physical, mental and spiritual being. This is great news for Minnesota winters as days are short and physically it is not taxing. However, the story is different when it comes to long hard days of Minnesota summer and it gets even further complicated when you have a medical condition to deal with.
There are certainly major medical benefits to fasting. Spiritual and religious reasons aside, one of the major benefits of fasting being able to control eating. This is one of the many reasons for obesity in western world and it disproportionately affects immigrants. Obesity in turn causes high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and strokes.
Let me address some of the common medical conditions that might need special attention during fasting in the month of Ramadan.
Diabetes Mellitus is a condition where the sugar content of our body is high. It is because the hormone that helps body use the sugar efficiently is either partially or fully absent. People are on medications or insulin to lower the blood sugars. These medications are geared towards patient’s usual pattern of eating from a time as well as quantity perspective. During Ramadan both the time and quantity are affected and this can result in dangerously low blood sugars towards the end of the day. Two very important things that need to be kept in mind are: you and people around you need to know the symptoms of low sugars, and avoid low sugars by a small change in the amount of your medications after discussion with your doctor. General principle is that low sugars can be fatal however relative high sugars for a short duration of time would not cause significant harm.
High blood pressure medications sometime need to be taken more than one or two times a day because it might become difficult to control blood pressures. It is dangerous to stop medications abruptly. With high blood pressure, you can potentially create a major emergency a condition called hypertensive emergency that can culminate in bleeding in the brain. You should talk to your physician and try adjusting medications to that effect.
Kidney disease requires people to drink adequate amounts of water to maintain function. Restriction of water during Ramadan can worsen the kidney function and result in kidney failure requiring dialysis. In patients who are on dialysis, there is no such risk but they might need to inform their dialysis centers that their water intake is less during Ramadan so the dialysis parameters can be adjusted accordingly.
Dehydration is a major risk during Ramadan. Multiple organs can get affected. Kidneys as mentioned above. People with some heart conditions may be affected by dehydration, especially young kids that play contact sports.
Heart conditions, not the spiritual ones, can mostly get affected by lack of water. But one can counter this with adequate water intake before or after fasting period. There is no reported risk of heart attacks related to fasting.
Most of the risks can be averted given proper actions are taken. In summary follow the following advice:
- Adequate hydration during non fasting hours.
- Adjust diabetic medications as per your physician’s recommendations.
- Inform your physician what your day looks like, as he/she may not know what it entails.
- Avoid dehydration if you have kidney disease.
- Do not stop high blood pressure medications suddenly as it can potentially kill you.
- Avoid low blood sugars at all times.
Rwoof Reshi is a Professor of Neuro Critical Care/Neuro Surgery at University of Minnesota. He teaches at University of Minnesota Medical School and also directs University’s Neuro Critical Care Fellowship Program. Dr. Reshi comes from Indian Kashmir. He currently lives in Woodbury, MN with his wife and three young ones. Dr. Reshi is driven by community service, bridging differences toward the goal of peaceful coexistence. Dr. Reshi can answer any follow-up medical questions.
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