Health experts say that the patients suffering from hypertension and heart diseases may get benefits of fasting during the holy month of Ramazan provided they have taken proper guidance from their physicians.
Medical specialists believe that fasting has great physical, spiritual and psychological benefits, both for healthy persons and patients suffering from hypertension and heart diseases.
It is observed generally that most patients suffering from hypertension and heart diseases feel a lot better when they opt for fasting during Ramazan, however, they need proper guidance on food and medication from a qualified physician. Fasting brings discipline and contentment that keep a person away from all scourges of modern life that results in diseases like high blood pressure and heart attacks, said medical specialist at Benazir Bhutto Hospital Dr Muhammad Mujeeb Khan while talking to ‘The News’.
He said that fasting regulates body functions and helps control blood pressure. Fasting is a natural way to normalise body weight. Fasting dissolves all unnecessary and unnatural deposits of fats in the body reducing risk factor of heart attack and other diseases, he said.
Dr. Mujeeb said that high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet (high sugar, high carbohydrate and excess hydrogenated oils) and stress are the main risk factors for heart diseases and stroke which can be avoided through fasting.
He added that moderate use of monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, canola oil, various dry fruits such as almond, walnut, peanuts etc is safe for heart patients however they should avoid Trans fats found in French fries, chips, crackers, cakes, biscuits, samosas, pakoras, patties, sweets, vanaspati ghee and hydrogenated oils.
He said that the patients suffering from heart diseases or hypertension should avoid excessive use of beef, vanaspati ghee, margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils, refined flour products, instant rice, potatoes and cream not only in Ramazan but in routine too. He added that heart patients should replace high carbohydrate, starchy diet with high protein diet including fish and fish oils.
He suggested that a heart patient while opting for fasting should eat more vegetables especially leafy vegetables and salads. Heart patients should eat fruits but avoid fruit trifles. They should use more lemon. They may use milk and yogurt but without cream, he said.
Dr. Mujeeb said that heart patients should use brown flour/bread. Use simple chapatti and avoid ‘parathas’. A heart patient can eat one teaspoonful of honey and few dates daily. He should use less salt and spices. While fasting, a heart patient should drink a lot of water, he said.
He said that in most of the cases of heart diseases, the dose of anti-hypertensive drugs is decreased during fasting provided a patient avoids oily and salty food at the time of ‘Sehr’ and ‘Iftar’. “A patient with heart disease must consult his or her physician before going for fasting.” Dr. Mujeeb, however, said that the patients who have angina or had a heart attack in the recent past, the best way is for the patient to decide for himself whether he can fast or not. If he can fast without any problem, he should continue and if due to any reason, mostly dietary imbalance, he is uneasy, he should refrain from fasting.
On dietary habits during Ramazan, he said that in order to get full benefits of fasting in Ramazan, one should eat healthy diet in Íftar’ and ‘Sehar’ such as ‘fruit chaat’, ‘vegetable salads’, along with macronis; simple chapatti, whole wheat bread, pulses, fish, poultry, milk, yoghurt, dates, fresh fruits juices, soups, boiled rice, potatoes, and peas etc and should avoid unhealthy diet such as deep-fried foods including ‘Samosas’, ‘pakoras’, ‘kachoris’, ‘jalabis’, and ‘parathas’, excessive usage of spices, tea, coffee, cola or other beverages etc because all these foods increase your blood Low Density Lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) which is bad for your health and for your heart.
Dr. Mujeeb added that one should limit the amount of sweet food in Ramazan. Consumption of excessive amounts of food during ‘sehri’, or Iftar’ is also a dangerous practice. “One should have a modest dinner within one-and-a-half hours after ‘Iftar’ and should drink as much water as possible between ‘Iftar’ and bedtime and at least 3-4 glasses of water at the time of ‘Sehr’,” said Dr Mujeeb.