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Posted On: 13 June 2017 07:17 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:17 pm

Ramadan health-link: How to fast safely when you have diabetes

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(For illustrative purposes only. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

By Ashlee Starratt

It’s still a few hours before Iftar, and your head feels dizzy, your heart is racing, and you experience a sense of disorientation. For individuals living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, these symptoms can be indicative of a severe drop in blood sugar. Also referred to as ‘hypoglycemia’, this state can bring on considerable health complications to those at risk – especially during the Holy Month of Ramadan when daily fasting is practiced.

The Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA) hopes to raise awareness about how to manage your diabetes during the Holy Month through a series of educational outreach initiatives aimed at empowering the community. Through their yearly Ramadan Hotline, the QDA offers support, health-care information and frequently asked questions to those individuals and their families who want to be proactive about their health.

According to the International Diabetes Federation it’s estimated that 387 million people around the globe have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes – with that number anticipated to rise to 582 million over the next 20 years. How to stop such a sharp increase? Awareness and early education are integral to preventing new cases of Type 2 diabetes brought on by sedentary lifestyle and poor diet.

ILQ spoke with Dr. Abdulla Al Hamaq, Executive Director of the QDA to learn more about diabetes in Qatar and how those living with the condition manage their health safely during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

iStock-492384738(For illustrative purposes only. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

ILQ: What is diabetes and what is the most prevalent type of diabetes in Qatar?

AAH: Diabetes happens when sugar rises in the blood to abnormal levels. This occurs because insulin – a hormone produced by the pancreas is deficient or cannot work properly to regulate blood glucose levels. The most prevalent type of diabetes in Qatar and the world is Type 2 diabetes.

ILQ: What are the symptoms of diabetes and how is the condition managed and treated?

AAH: Diabetes is a silent disease for some – which means it could be present without any signs or symptoms. However, some might feel the following:

  • Polydipsia (too much thirst)
  • Polyphagia (too much hunger)
  • Polyuria (frequent urination)

Any person who feels they have these symptoms should go to the nearest health centre to investigate and manage accordingly.

ILQ: What resources does the Qatar Diabetes Association offer to those living with the condition in Qatar?


  • Diabetes self-management education
  • Dietary counseling for diabetes management
  • Advocacy for patients’ right.
  • Foot screening & foot care education
  • Physical exercise to people with diabetes or at risk of it, with minimal fee.
  • Support for screening of complications
  • Provision of diabetes management supplies such asblood glucose meters strips and glucose tablets at a discounted price
  • Training for the use of insulin pump.

ILQ: Tell us more about the QDA's Ramadan hotline?

AAH: [We] have a mission to raise community awareness on the importance of safe fasting during the Holy Month. Through our yearly Ramadan Helpline, the QDA will provide diabetes management information and support specific to fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

The QDA helpline can be contacted during Ramadan on 4454-7311, or 5527-4919, from 8:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m.. For medication adjustment or more information, a medical team from (PHCC and Hamad) can be reached on 5598-1331 from 8:00 p.m. till 11:30 p.m.

ILQ: What is the most important thing to keep in mind for people living with diabetes during the Holy Month if they wish to fast?

AAH: People with diabetes who use insulin injections are advised by medical and religious leaders not to fast (especially children and pregnant women), to avoid any risk of acute complications such as hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, and ketoacidosis. Every person wishing to fast should be assessed by a physician to take the proper decision and necessary measures for their safety – like adjusting medication.

Since monitoring blood glucose levels is very important at all times during Ramadan, people with diabetes should keep their blood sugar meters close to them. They should try to maintain a blood sugar level between 100-200 mg/dl during fasting hours to maintain their blood glucose level within target range. Also, and of particular importance, people with diabetes should test their blood sugar before driving –especially while fasting, to make sure they don’t have low blood sugar. To reduce the risk of low blood sugar during fasting, the Sohour meal must be as delayed as possible.

Physical activity should be avoided during fasting hours – especially before Iftar time –and also avoid sleeping for a long time while fasting, especially in the afternoon period and before Iftar time. To remain well-hydrated it’s preferable that people with diabetes decrease the intake of caffeine (coffee, tea, and soft drinks) and drink a lot of water after their fast.


(For illustrative purposes only. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

ILQ: What are some of the most common mistakes that people make when it comes to managing their diabetes during the Holy Month?

AAH: The most common mistakes that people with diabetes make during Ramadan are, that some stop their medications without prior consultation with their physician. Instead, the patient and his/her physician should agree on the dose adjustment of their medications during Ramadan.

For others, when their blood sugar range becomes low and they should break their fast insist on continuing by saying, “we will sleep” – thinking it’s safe when it’s is actually more dangerous to do so. We as the QDA are always trying to focus on this point so as to make people aware about it.

ILQ: What health education and diabetes awareness campaigns does the QDA have coming up for the summer and into the fall?

AAH: During the summer, our Walk-In Clinic is open with all services running as usual. Also, support and answers to inquiries through our social media are available.

Want to know more about the work of the Qatar Diabetes Association? Call (+974) 4454-7341.

Are you or someone you know living with diabetes? Tell us how you’re managing during the fasting month of Ramadan in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to give us a like and a share – it keeps us going!