For Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan serves as a time for self-reflection and mental and spiritual growth. Across the globe, Muslims begin their fast at dawn each day, breaking bread with loved ones by indulging in iftaar, or special Ramadan delicacies, at dusk.
As you embark on your fasting journey, here’s a roundup of important health indicators you should keep an eye on, as well as some tips to manage your wellbeing:
- Blood sugar: Also known as blood glucose, blood sugar is the body’s main source of energy. We usually receive blood sugar from the food we eat, as well as from our liver and muscles. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is important, as an excess may lead to diabetes. To test your blood sugar, you can use a continuous glucose monitoring system, or a portable blood sugar meter.Health Tip: As a rule of thumb, avoid breaking your fast with excessively sugary food or drinks, as they can spike your blood sugar and insulin levels, and make you feel even more hungry.
However, if you are diabetic, blood sugar management while fasting gets a little complicated. Diabetics face the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and should carefully monitor their blood sugar levels so they don’t crash.
- Blood pressure: Simply put, blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of your arteries. Imbalances in blood pressure can be life-threatening: high blood pressure (hypertension) could lead to heart attack or stroke, while excessively low blood pressure (hypotension) could deprive vital organs of blood supply.Health Tip: Research shows that fasting during Ramadan positively impacts blood pressure. Those with hypertension should drink plenty of water, consume fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid fat-rich foods and sweetened beverages.
- Blood lipids: These fat-like substances can be found in the blood and body tissues, and are required only in small amounts. Key lipids include cholesterol and triglycerides, but excessive amounts can potentially increase the risk of heart disease.Health Tip: If your blood lipid levels are out of control (you can determine this by asking your doctor for a lipid panel or a full cholesterol test), consider making some lifestyle tweaks. Apart from increasing physical activity, be mindful of what you consume during Ramadan. Switch out foods rich in saturated or trans fats (red meat, full-fat dairy, fried potato snacks, cookies) for plant-based or whole-grain products.
- Uric acid: Ready for a quick science lesson? Uric acid is a byproduct of purines, chemicals found abundantly in foods including certain seafood, red meat, and alcohol. A build-up of uric acid can result in gout and kidney stones.Health Tip: Healthy fluids are your best friend. Be sure to hydrate adequately upon breaking your fast, and limit your intake of red meat and fish such as anchovies or mackerel.
- Liver enzymes: These proteins are responsible for several key biological processes, including blood clotting and digestion. But elevated liver enzymes may be the indication of more serious illnesses, including hepatitis or fatty liver disease.Health Tip: This Ramadan, take care of your liver by indulging in antioxidant-rich fruits like berries and grapes, green leafy vegetables including kale and collard greens, and green tea. Skip the fatty, starchy food — your body will thank you.
For best results, always consult with your doctor before making any decisions. For a comprehensive overview of your health, it is best to conduct a series of tests to know where you stand: find out more about our services here: