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


Diabetes UK has teamed up with Greater Manchester pro boxer Muhammad Ali to support the Muslim community living with diabetes during Ramadan and ensure the occasion is marked 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 Diabetes UK 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.

The charity’s five top tips are:

  • 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:

“We know that ultimately it is a personal choice whether or not to fast, but if you do choose to fast when you have diabetes, you must take extra precautions to make sure you are not putting your health at risk.

“That’s because if you have diabetes, 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.

“If you’re fasting and you feel that you are having a hypo, you must break your fast and take some sugary fluids followed by starchy food as otherwise you will harm your body and may need medical attention. You can find further advice on our website.

“If you’re showing any symptom of COVID-19, our advice would be not to fast.”

Professional boxer Muhammed Ali, of Rochdale, 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.”

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

For life-threatening emergencies call 999. This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.

For non-life-threatening emergencies, if you or the person you’re with doesn’t need immediate medical attention, please consider other options before dialling 999, such as using the NHS 111 online service, or calling 111 if you don’t have internet access. You could also talk to a pharmacist, or call or email your GP practice or diabetes team. 

Diabetes UK has also prepared up-to-date guidance to support anyone living with or affected by diabetes during the coronavirus epidemic, which can be found at: www.diabetes.org.uk/coronavirus

Boxer Muhammed Ali photographed in holborn studios 31st july 2018 by neale haynes
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