Service supports Muslims with diabetes

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Hoping to build on last year’s success and extend its reach, the Primary Care Diabetes Support Program (PCDSP) of St. Joseph’s Health Care London is once again offering to help Muslims with diabetes fast safely during Ramadan.

Beginning June 28, thousands of Muslims in London will start 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.

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For the second year, the PCDSP is offering a special service to people with diabetes who observe Ramadan. Individuals can receive the guidance and support they need through the PCDSP with no referral necessary.

“Last year, dozens of Muslims with diabetes took advantage of our service to avoid running into problems with highs and lows in blood sugar levels – a common problem during this period of fasting,” says Dr. Mervat Bakeer, a family physician who specializes in diabetes. “They learned that fasting can be done safely but education and changes to their diabetes management are needed.”

Dr. Bakeer is hoping that word spreads further this year so that those with diabetes who fast are doing so with proper guidance.  Without it they are taking significant risks with their health, she says. Those risks include hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis  – high levels of blood acids called ketones, explains Dr. Bakeer.  “Other problems may arise due to dehydration, such as thrombosis and acute kidney injury, especially for people with chronic kidney disease or on blood pressure medication.”

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An estimated 3,000 Muslims in London are living with diabetes and many will fast. Research 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, says Dr. Bakeer. Most, she adds, don’t change how they manage their diabetes while fasting and may be hesitant to ask their doctor for support for fear they will be discouraged from fasting. “So they do it on their own.”

“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 proper diet during Ramadan.”

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. Written information is also provided and is available in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and English. Those interested can call 519 646-6100 ext. 67268.

A video link featuring Dr. Bakeer explaining the service in English and Arabic is available here: