New St. Joseph’s service supports Muslims with diabetes

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Beginning July 9, thousands of Muslims will begin a month of a daily fasting from dawn until sunset in observance of Ramadan. This is an important period of religious devotion and spiritual reflection but for Muslims with diabetes, it can pose serious health risks if planning is not done well ahead.

“It’s very common for those with diabetes who observe Ramadan to run into trouble with lows and highs in blood sugar levels,” explains Dr. Mervat Bakeer with the Primary Care Diabetes Support Program (PCDSP) of St. Joseph’s Health Care London. “It’s critical they plan for Ramadan by learning how to adjust their medications for fasting, about insulin use and careful monitoring when fasting, when to break the fast, and diet during Ramadan.”

For the first time, St. Joseph’s is providing a service to help those with diabetes stay healthy during Ramadan. Individuals can receive the guidance and support they need through the PCDSP. No referral is necessary.

“There is a great need to provide this service,” says Dr. Bakeer, a family physician who specializes in diabetes. “Many people are fasting without any planning or guidance and are taking risks. They avoid testing their blood sugars because they don’t want to break the fast and run into problems with hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. Fasting can be done safely but education and changes to their diabetes management are needed.”

An estimated 3,000 Muslims in London are living with diabetes. Dr. Bakeer says that research looking at the epidemiology of diabetes and Ramadan indicates that more than 40 per cent of Muslims with type 1 diabetes and nearly 80 per cent with type 2 diabetes fast during Ramadan, and most don’t change how they manage their diabetes while fasting.

Dr. Bakeer urges people to see their family doctor before Ramadan or to call the PCDSP to make an appointment. At the PCDSP, located at St. Joseph’s Family Medical and Dental Centre on Platt’s Lane, individuals will be assessed and a plan developed to see them through Ramadan, including weekly visits or monitoring by phone or email.