How to manage hypertension during Ramadan

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Hypertension, commonly known as high Blood Pressure, affects at least 1 in 3 people globally and is the cause of 9.4 million deaths annually worldwide. Hypertension is rather rampant among Emiratis and approximately 40.8% of Emirati adults between the ages of 35-70 years suffer from hypertension, a study conducted by the Dubai Health Authority revealed.

Hypertension is also known as the ‘silent killer’ because people may go on for years together without realizing that they are suffering from this condition. People remain unaware of the condition until they experience symptoms like consistent headaches, fatigue or eye pain which they ignore by taking painkillers and multivitamins.

Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is a spiritual practice which can get difficult for an individual with hypertension to manage. People fast during the day and have significant changes in their eating and sleeping patterns which can cause fluctuations in their blood pressure.

There are numerous misconceptions about hypertension and fasting during Ramadan. One major myth is that fasting adversely affect their health and hence people with hypertension shouldn’t fast. Most studies of the recent times suggest that individuals with mild to moderate hypertension that is efficiently managed with healthy lifestyle practices and medication can successfully fast without harming their health.

However, it is true that people with uncontrolled hypertension with multiple medications should refrain from fasting. There is always the risk of their blood pressure shooting high during Ramadan. Specialist Cardiologist Dr. Srinivasan Ravindranath at Aster Clinic, Al Muteena (DMPC) says that it is advisable to consult with a specialist to discuss and decide on medications to be taken during the course of one month.

There is no permanent cure for hypertension, however, the symptoms can be managed and prevented from worsening. Hypertensive patients must ensure to drink lots of liquids and avoid sweetened juices to escape dehydration. Reduce the intake of caffeine and caffeinated drinks as these can cause dehydration and other complications. Fresh fruits and vegetables help to control high blood pressure and must be made a part of Iftar and Suhoor meals.

Avoiding high fat dishes and consuming low dairy products regulate blood pressure. People with hypertension should always be cautious about their health and watch for symptoms like a headache and dizziness. Exercise is a must to keep the body active even during Ramadan. Physical exercise also reduces and controls the blood pressure.

Smoking is a causative factor for high BP and Ramadan is a great opportunity for smokers to quit smoking because it increases the systolic pressure which in turn increases the risk of heart diseases and stroke. Control of diabetes and cholesterol are extremely important in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, even though they are not directly related to hypertension.

Adopting a cleaner and healthier lifestyle helps to combat the onset of hypertension and its complications. It is always best to undergo regular checkups to ensure Hypertension is diagnosed early and further complications can be prevented. A healthy lifestyle includes weight reduction, regular exercise, and reduction of salt and alcohol intake. Lifestyle changes alone can help reduce the complications by a great extent if they are followed diligently.

Every year 17th of May is recognized as World Hypertension Day in order to raise awareness about the condition, complications and management. This year goes by the theme of ‘Know Your numbers’, to motivate people to check their blood pressure regularly and keep track of it.