Advantages of fasting during Ramadan

1.     Lowers blood pressure

In a recently published research paper in the Journal of the American Heart Association the results of fasting on the patients with high blood pressure showed a reduction in the systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number). Why does fasting lead to lower blood pressure? The researchers speculate it’s a result of a metabolic change that happens after eight to 12 hours of fasting when the body begins burning ketones rather than glycogen.

2.     Regulates ‘bad’ cholesterol 
Often people will aim to merely to lose some weight by fasting – even outside the Ramadan window. However, a recent study found that fasting also affects the lipid profile. This results in reduced blood cholesterol, which can keep heart attacks, strokes and other diseases at bay.

3.     Appetite suppression
Observing Ramadan and fasting gives your lifestyle and digestive system a positive boost. As your body gets used to eating less, your digestive system gets a chance to rest and your stomach gradually shrinks in size. This curbs your appetite, and the results can last longer than many trendy diets, and if continued post Ramadan as an intermittent fasting pattern, much healthier!

4.     Detoxing
When fasting your body not only uses your fat reserves, but also cleanses itself of harmful toxins that might be present in those fat deposits. With the digestive system on a month-long overhaul, your body naturally detoxifies, giving you the opportunity to continue a healthier lifestyle beyond Ramadan. 

5.     Modified mood and mental clarity 
Seen as a method of ‘supercharging’ the brain, fasting allows for the increase, growth, and development of new brain cells, in turn sharpening responses to your surroundings. Fasting can also make the brain more resilient to stress, more adaptable to change, and can improve mood, memory and even learning capacity.

Who can fast?

Using expert consensus and a recognised medical framework, cardiac patients can be categorized into ‘low or moderate risk’, for example, stable angina or non-severe heart failure; ‘high risk’, for example, poorly controlled arrhythmias or recent myocardial infarction; and ‘very high risk’, for example, advanced heart failure. The ‘low-moderate risk’ group may fast, provided their medications and clinical conditions allow. The ‘high’ or ‘very high risk’ groups should not fast and may consider safe alternatives such as non-consecutive fasts or fasting shorter days. But our counsel is to book an appointment with a specialist cardiologist in prior to fasting or changing your lifestyle. This will give you an opportunity to discuss any concerns you have related to your heart illness and the impact of fasting on your specific health condition.

Practical advice 

1.     Have smaller meals

To reduce any negative effects on heart health, cardiac patients should consider having three or four smaller meals between Iftar and Suhur, rather than two large meals.

The idea behind having smaller portions is that it will help your body metabolize your food more easily, and will prevent problems such as indigestion or heartburn, both which can cause aggravation in heart patients. Eating large meals can also trigger shortness of breath, another symptom experienced by heart patients.

Why not ask one of our cardiologist’s to further guide you regarding the ideal meal schedule and timings according to your medication and dosage during Ramadan.

2.     Healthy Food Choices

Avoid breaking your fast with fatty, fried foods. Instead opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Be sure to eat plenty of dates to regain your energy and maintain your glucose level. These food choices can prevent the formation of plaque in the arteries and assists with cleansing the blood.

3.     Hydrate

A little dehydration is natural, and this can typically lead to slight headaches or even a lack of concentration. However, you can help keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids in the Iftar to Suhoor hours. Drinking water will help cleanse your body and add to the benefits of fasting.

Alternatives to water is light tea without milk or sugar – adding lemon slices or fresh mint also helps to detox and aid digestion. If you regularly have coffee or fizzy drinks, try to curb your intake, as these are diuretics that further dehydratesthe body.

4.     Exercise moderately

Fasting and dehydration can naturally cause you to feel lethargic. However, with proper fluid intake, you should also try to exercise in moderate amounts. Remaining active helps reduce fatigue, gives your body the strength to keep going and is a good opportunity to lose weight if needed. However, exercise without the green light from your doctor could be dangerous – check first before engaging in new exercises. It’s best to exercise just before Suhoor or a few hours after Iftar to make the most of your workouts.

At German Heart Centre we put our patients first.  Whatever your change in lifestyle demands, we are there to discuss the impact it may have, share some valuable recommendations on how best to approach it, and of course guide you with an individualized treatment plan. 

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