The blessed month of Ramadhan is upon us. Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic year, during which strict fasting is observed from dawn to sunset, for approximately 30 days. The annual event represents a time to fast and devote a particular focus to prayer and charitable acts. This year Ramadhan begins on Saturday 27 May 2017 and ends on Sunday 26 June (subject to sightings of the moon given the Islamic Calendar operates on a lunar system).
Fasting is one of the five key foundations of the Islamic faith. The others are a belief in the Muslim faith, prayer, giving a percentage of your wealth to charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Fasting is seen as a way to purify spiritually as well as physically – a time to detach from material pleasures and be closer to God. The act of fasting is also believed to increase Muslims’ piety, reminding them that others are less fortunate than themselves.
Adults who are fit and able are expected to fast, but children and elderly people are exempt. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone who is sick or travelling on a journey (subject to exemptions) are also exempt.
The end of Ramadhan is marked with a big feast, the exchanging of gifts and celebrations, known as “Eid-ul-Fitr”.
The community is normally abuzz with activities during this month, usually taking place within the local mosques. Most mosques have facilities for the opening of the fast where the community can attend to open their fast collectively. This is usually followed by additional prayers in the mosques.
Health – Type 2 Diabetes in South Asians and How You Can Prevent It:
Diabetes is a global epidemic with rates accelerating at an alarming rate. In 2015 it was estimated globally there were approximately 415 million who have diabetes and future predictions indicate by 2040 there will 642 million with diabetes.[i] Increasing rates of obesity and being sedentary are thought to contribute to this growing phenomenon. Type 2 diabetes occurs generally over 40 years old but can occur at a younger age in South Asians, from the age of 25. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 percent of all people with diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Insulin is a hormone in the body used to manage glucose, or sugar, levels in the blood and used to convert glucose into energy. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces less insulin along with a resistance in the way the body reacts to it. This leads to high glucose levels in the body which can cause health complications.
Signs of Diabetes
If you are South Asian and over 25 years old you may be at risk of developing diabetes especially if you have a family history of diabetes or your BMI is >23. The signs of diabetes can include:
· Being thirsty
· Going to the toilet frequently
· Losing weight unintentionally
· Cuts and wounds taking longer to heal
· Thrush or genital itching
Diabetes in South Asians
Rates of diabetes are higher amongst certain ethnic groups. Not only are South Asians up to 4 times more likely to get diabetes compared to White Europeans the development of the disease occurs around a decade earlier. South Asians are more likely to get the complications of diabetes which include eye disease (retinopathy), kidney failure (nephropathy), nerve damage (neuropathy) and cardiovascular disease (heart disease and strokes).
Treatment of Diabetes
The treatment of diabetes can be with diet, oral medication or injections (insulin and non-insulin). It is important you understand what your medication does, the correct dosage and are aware of any potential side effects. It is important you take your medication as prescribed by your Doctor and never share your tablets with anyone else. Your GP should invite you for an annual review at your surgery and this will include important checks of your blood glucose levels, cholesterol and blood pressure. You will also receive an annual eye check. It is important you attend your appointments and receive input into your care by a healthcare professional in order to minimise the risk of diabetes related complications.
Prevention of Diabetes
The good news is that diabetes can be prevented in 80% of people. Ways to minimise the risk of developing diabetes include:
· Staying active and healthy by participating in regular exercise
· Keep your weight down or aim for a BMI <23
· South Asian men should aim for a waist measurement of <90cm or 35 inches and for women <80cm or 31 inches
· Make healthier food choices: bake or grill food instead of frying
· Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day
· Most diets are too high in carbohydrates (rice, nan or chappati). Try to reduce consumption and increase protein sources in the diet (fish, chicken, eggs and meat)
· Use healthier oils for cooking. Choose monounsaturated options e.g. extra virgin or rapeseed oil
Remember if we promote good health in our families we can prevent future generations in developing diabetes.
Health Inequalities Pharmacist
Scottish Lead for the South Asian Health Foundation (www.sahf.org.uk)