Disease Management

Management of Diabetes during Ramadan

Dr. Husam Rezeq/ Head of Exercise is Medicine Clinic
Aspetar
06 June, 2017

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The prevalence of diabetes is increasing globally. Fortunately, there is compelling evidence from clinical trials that lifestyle modifications, health promotion and education can minimize the risk of diabetes, and new treatments can reduce the burden of morbidity and mortality. However, important as these advances are, diabetes and its complications can be prevented, or delayed, by modifying risk factors. Persons with diabetes must understand their disease and be empowered to avoid risk factors and encouraged to exercise, and control blood glucose.

Many people with diabetes believe as long as they are taking medication whether oral or insulin injections, they are treating diabetes. The fact is that diabetes is a chronic disease. Medicines are only one part of the treatment and not the only one. The patient should adopt behavioral, nutritional and medical measures to improve control of the disease which are the cornerstone for prevention of many complications of diabetes. The major components of diabetes management are dietary therapy, exercise and drug treatment.

Physical activity and exercise are recommended for patients with diabetes because of their positive impact on the health of the patient. The quality of life may be complicated for many patients by the month of Ramadan. Ramadan might be considered as one of the obstacles to exercise, which negatively affects their sugar levels control.

Diabetic persons should know that exercise makes it easier to control blood glucose (blood sugar) level. Exercise benefits people with diabetes because it increases insulin sensitivity. In other words, after exercise, your body doesn't need as much insulin to process carbohydrates.

You should aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week. If you think that you can’t find 30 minutes, you can break up the exercise into chunks—10 minutes here and there. Build up to 30 minutes gradually.

It is true, many people with diabetes can fast safely, but each person is different.   Part of the decision you will make with your doctor has to do with the kind of diabetes medicine you take.  Your doctor or healthcare provider may suggest a change in your medication plan. 

What risks should I be aware of?

There are a number of risks associated with fasting Ramadan for a diabetic person e.g.  
• Low blood glucose (or hypoglycemia) – The risk of blood glucose levels going too low is highest in people taking insulin or certain diabetes pills.
• High blood glucose (or hyperglycemia) – While low blood glucose levels may happen during the day, after breakfast, there is a greater risk to overeat.  Watch out for eating too many sweets and keep the portion sizes moderate.   Even though Ramadan is known as a time of fasting – it is not uncommon for people to gain weight during this month, as in some families, every evening meal is a celebration.  
• Dehydration – This is especially a problem during the longer and hotter summer days.  Aim to drink sugar free and caffeine free drinks frequently throughout the evening and before dawn.

Generally, diabetic patient who are already physically active are encouraged to continue same exercise that they were doing before Ramadan considering changing times to after Iftar. Ramadan is a wonderful chance to those who are not yet engaged with physical activity and exercise and they can start with the simplest, easiest and cheapest one which is walking. Patients who have overweight, obesity, or osteoarthritis can join aqua classes to help them relax, move big muscles and reduce joint friction.  

It is important to consider some of the basic things for diabetics during the holy month:

- Consult your doctor about the possibility of fasting and the regulation of medication doses if necessary

- Attention to the quantity and quality of food and consult nutritionists

- Try to get a snack between breakfast and Suhoor

- Exercise at a rate of 30 minutes per day and be careful to take enough sleep and rest

- Drink plenty of water

- In the case of falling sugar during fasting, it is necessary to break the fast and eat sugary even if it was just before Iftar

For more information and for more details regarding exercise and fasting, you can follow the physical activity guide on our website: Click Here

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