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Ramadan, Lent 2023 diet: Tips to keep your heart healthy during fasting period

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Apr 05, 2023 07:30 PM IST

After Navratri, the fasting period is here with the ongoing Holy month of Ramadan and Lent just around the corner but if you're a heart patient, note these tips

Fasting is a practice that has been observed across various religions and cultures for centuries - be it Navratri, Ramadan (also known as Ramazan, Ramzaan or Ramzan) and Lent where studies by NCBI show that fasting can also have positive effects on weight reduction, insulin resistance and preventing coronary artery disease. Health experts insist that it is equally important to take special care of your health if you are suffering from any chronic condition such as heart-health issues, high blood pressure or diabetes, as fasting can lead to electrolyte imbalance and can make the heart prone to arrhythmias.

Ramadan, Lent 2023 diet: Tips to keep your heart healthy during the fasting period( Photo by Rauf Alvi/Kamil Szumotalski on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Santosh Kumar Dora, Senior Cardiologist at Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai, revealed who should avoid fasting and said, “Patients with unstable angina, recent heart attacks, or those who have undergone heart surgery in the last 4-6 weeks, should avoid fasting. Other than that, patients with uncontrolled hypertension, or heart rhythm disorders should also not fast as they may require frequent medication.”

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To avoid the potential risks of fasting and ensure that your health is not compromised, he suggested a few key tips to keep your heart healthy during the fasting period:

  1. Overeating can disrupt your hormones - Two major hormones affect hunger regulation — ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and leptin, which suppresses appetite).When you haven’t eaten for a while, ghrelin levels increase. Then, after you’ve eaten, leptin levels tell your body that it’s full. However, overeating may disrupt this balance, which may trigger a perpetual cycle of overeating and play havoc with body weight. Hence, it is important to not break your fast with a huge meal.
  2. Maintain fluid balance - Drinking plenty of water and fluids during non-fasting hours is necessary to prevent ‘hypovolemia’ (dehydration). It is advised to drink at least 8 glasses of fluids to stay hydrated. Patients should take diuretics (water pills) in the evening instead of morning, so that proper hydration can be maintained, it helps in reduction in jugular venous pressure, pulmonary congestion and oedema, peripheral oedema and body weight.
  3. Avoid caffeine - Limit intake of caffeine such as coffee, tea and soft drinks, as it can block iron absorption and increase urine flow that can lead to dehydration. Caffeine can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure. It is advisable to replace tea and coffee with mint and ginger drinks to avoid bloating.
  4. Watch out for metabolic syndrome - Often, people use rituals as an excuse to consume fried or sugary food. This may promote obesity and insulin resistance, two major risk factors for metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It is better to eat a balanced meal that includes a variety of foods- including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
  5. Wait until after meals to drink fluids - Mixing large quantities of beverages and food all at once can lead to shortness of breath. Small portions favor harmonic and metabolic changes, and contribute to the production of good cholesterol.
  6. Be physically active - Choose light to moderate activities like walking, yoga, or stretching, two to three hours after breaking fast in the evening, without exerting too much. Physical activity done at the wrong time can further increase load on the heart and can cause consequences such as fainting and stroke.
  7. Get enough sleep - Less sleep can lead to outbursts of anger, headaches and higher stress loads, aggravated by hunger. This can directly or indirectly increase the heart’s workload.

While the above tips are standard, it is important for heart patients to consult a doctor and ensure they are in stable condition before fasting. They should consult their healthcare provider so that their medications can be adjusted during the non-fasting hours, especially those who need to use anticoagulants (medicines that help prevent blood clots), if they stop taking them on time, they may face severe health consequences.

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