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April 2020

Diabetes UK urges the Muslim community to stay safe and ‘fighting fit’ during Ramadan 





Diabetes UK has teamed up with UK pro boxer Muhammad Ali to share five top tips to help support the Muslim community with diabetes to stay healthy during Ramadan – and to mark the occasion safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ramadan runs from around 23 April for 29 or 30 days. Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr, a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide. The Qur'an requires Muslims to fast during the month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset.

There are exceptions, and people who are ill or have medical conditions do not have to fast – including those with diabetes. However, some people still choose to do so.

This year, Ramadan also falls when the suspected peak of the COVID-19 pandemic could take place which has prompted the charity to remind those marking the occasion to do so safely by adhering to social distancing rules and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions by fasting in a healthy way.

General practice nurses can help their Muslim patients by passing on the five top tips:

  • If you are unwell or have any symptoms of COVID-19 – do not fast
  • If you do choose to fast, before you start; include more slowly absorbed foods (low GI), such as basmati rice and dhal, in your meal, along with fruit and vegetables
  • During your fast, if you already check your blood sugar levels, do this more than usual
  • When you break the fast, have only small quantities of food, and avoid only eating sweet or fatty foods
  • Stay at home – do not be tempted to visit family, friends or the mosque during this time

Daniel Howarth, Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said that ultimately it was a personal choice whether or not to fast, but if patients do choose to fast when they have diabetes, they must take extra precautions to make sure they are not putting their health at risk. ‘That’s because fasting can risk aggravating complications associated with the condition, such as poor vision, heart or kidney disease, hypoglycaemia and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) – conditions that can require emergency hospital treatment.’

Patients who are fasting and experience a hypo, must break their fast and take some sugary fluids followed by starchy food to avoid the risk of needing medical attention, the charity advises.

Patients showing any symptom of COVID-19 should be advised not to fast.

Professional boxer Muhammed Ali, lives with Type 1 diabetes, and has filmed a new video to share these tips on staying well during Ramadan. He said: ‘Ramadan is a special time for the Muslim community, but for those with diabetes there are increased risks and it’s important that everyone does their best to stay fighting fit during this pandemic – in order to help the NHS.

‘As a boxer with diabetes I always say I’m just like any other ordinary person and that life is not about waiting for the storm to pass by; but learning to weather the storm. These five top tips are easy to do and follow and make living with diabetes during Ramadan that little bit safer.’

GPNs should advise people who experience hypos, DKAs or other serious diabetes complications to seek medical advice and not let worries about catching coronavirus allow problems to get worse.