Individuals with diabetes, who intend to perform Hajj this year, are advised to speak with their healthcare team about proper preparation for the spiritual pilgrimage.
Dr. Mahmoud Zirie, Senior Consultant and Head of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), said performing Hajj can be challenging for an individual with diabetes as it changes their daily schedule and requires good planning.
“It is very important for individuals with diabetes to seek advice from their healthcare team prior to Hajj. Managing their diet is an important part of avoiding complications like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar level).”
More frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels is recommended as there is an increased risk of hypoglycemia. Altering meal times, drinking plenty of water and carrying a form of sugar-packed food, such as orange juice or dates, is also recommended.
“To avoid hypoglycemia during Tawaf and Saee, patients are advised to have a nutritious meal directly before performing these physically demanding rituals,” said Mr. Zohair Al Arabi, Clinical Dietitian Supervisor at HMC. “Hydration is very important for diabetic patients and we emphasize the importance of having at least one cup of water every hour.”
Consideration must also be given to the possible effects of heat, physical exertion, crowds and an altered routine. To avoid dehydration, patients are advised to complete Tawaf and Saee during cooler times, closer to dawn and sunset, instead at noon time.
Mr. Al Arabi added that maintaining a healthy diet is an important aspect of regulating blood sugar. “Good planning is required as finding suitable food during Hajj can be challenging, due in part to the busy schedule.”
“We usually advise our patients to check with the group they’re traveling with about the types of food that will be available. It is important to ask for menu options suitable for diabetics. We encourage our patients to ask about restaurants that offer healthy-eating options low in fat and calories, including those that provide takeaway meals.”
He recommended that diabetics should carry canned food, adding that moderation, smart choices and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables are important when eating at buffets. “If buffets are on offer, patients should opt for healthier options like seafood. When eating meats, moderation is the key and it is important to remove visible fat. Filling up on vegetables and fruits is also a healthier option.”
Choosing proper footwear is another important consideration. Shoes or sandals should be wide enough to avoid extra pressure on the feet and toes. Packing medications in carry-on luggage, rather than in checked baggage, is recommended. It’s also recommended that diabetic patients travel with a companion who is healthy and knows the specifics of the patient’s medical condition.
“Sometimes during Hajj patients forget to check their blood sugar and to pack healthy foods, including carbohydrates that can be used in cases of hypoglycemia. A companion can remind them if they forget and can provide any necessary assistance,” said Mr. Al Arabi.
As part of its commitment to providing the safest, most effective and compassionate care, HMC aims to improve the population’s overall wellbeing through promoting a healthier lifestyle. Information about diabetes, including tips on living well with the disease, and a detailed leaflet on diabetes and Hajj, is available at http://diabetes.hamad.qa/
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