Patients urged to visit their doctor and fast with care

People suffering from chronic diseases are being urged to visit their doctors if they are fasting during Ramadan.

People suffering from chronic diseases are being urged to visit their doctors if they are fasting during Ramadan. Patients with illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease may need to adjust their medications if they are fasting. Other problems, such as acute insomnia and lethargy, can also be affected by fasting, doctors warn.

Dr Wael al Mahmeed, the head of the Emirates Cardiac Society and a cardiologist at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, said the warning particularly applies to anyone taking insulin for the treatment of diabetes. "As doctors we try to get away from dictating to people about fasting from a religious or medical point of view," he said. "The main issue is the diurnal pattern changes and day becomes night, and vice versa. Some people with a chronic disease who take a lot of medication will need brand new plans for the month."

Almost one in four Emiratis are believed to be diabetic. When not fasting, diabetics are advised to eat a healthy diet and avoid gaining weight. Recommended diets are ones rich in wholegrain carbohydrates, which provide fibre and help control blood glucose levels. Drinking plenty of water at night, avoiding juice, and eating small meals are simple ways to avoid falling ill while fasting during the day, Dr Mahmeed said.

Muslims should also take care of their mental health during Ramadan, he added. Insomnia, he said, is one of the biggest concerns during the holy month and can result in a number of problems. "If people are too tired they are more likely to have accidents. A lack of sleep can make people generally feel poorly. We also see a lot of women with palpitations due to a lack of sleep and very busy social diaries," Dr Mahmeed said.

Muslims are required to fast for longer periods of time when Ramadan falls in the summer. This means people are often going to bed at 4am and getting up for work just a couple of hours later. People often forget how important sleep is to their mental and physical health, Dr Mahmeed said. Dr Abdulla Fayyad, a nutritionist at the American Hospital Dubai, reinforced the message that Muslims should avoid overeating at iftar. Instead, they should opt for a regular sized, balanced meal.

To maintain healthy eating patterns, he said, Muslims should apply their regular habits to the iftar and suhoor as much as possible. "For people who are used to sleeping early and waking up early, it's better to have suhoor on waking up," he explained. "For those who are used to sleeping late, waking up at dawn for suhoor and then going back to sleep, it is better to have a relatively light meal at suhoor."

He recommends that suhoor be a rich meal high in carbohydrates and protein, but low in sugars. During Ramadan, the American Hospital Dubai plans to send weekly health tips via text messages to all its patients, as well as regularly updating its website.