Doha, 14 May, 2019: Ms. Dalia Elissawi, a Clinical Dietitian at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Home Health Care Service, says people over 65 years old who are fasting this Ramadan should speak with their doctor if they notice any warning signs of illness. She says most elderly individuals who have no major health problems can fast without any adverse health impacts, but she says fasting should be avoided, or at the very least carefully supervised, in those who have chronic or geriatric illnesses.
“Elderly individuals with health problems are generally not able to fast. Frail and weak elderly patients who fast can place themselves at increased risk for complications; therefore, it is important they speak with their doctor if they experience any signs of illness. We generally advise elderly patients to talk to their doctor before Ramadan, but if they have begun fasting it is important they seek medical advice if they experience any signs of poor health. In some cases their doctor may recommend an alternative treatment plan that will allow them to continue the fast,” said Ms. Elissawi.
Ms. Elissawi says elderly patients who have multiple chronic illnesses that are being treated with medications are especially vulnerable to complications and must consult their doctor if they are fasting and experiencing signs of poor health. She says the Suhoor meal is particularly important for elderly patients who fast and she recommends eating smaller portions of high-calorie, slow-digesting foods.
“Aging influences people’s eating habits and dietary choices. Tooth loss, health conditions, and general weakness may result in chewing problems and lead to reduced food intake and an unbalanced diet. When hosting elderly individuals for Ramadan meals, the goal should be serving dishes that contain the right amount of nutritious and healthy calories without overloading their plate. We recommend breaking the fast with milk and dates, followed by soup and foods high in fiber, such as oatmeal, vegetables, fruits, and beans. Lean meat, skinless poultry, and fish are also great options,” said Ms. Elissawi.
Ms. Elissawi says smaller portions of higher calorie nutrient-dense foods will help ensure the individual is able to maintain their strength while preventing bloating, indigestion, and an upset stomach. She recommends limiting fast-digesting carbohydrates and foods that are high in sugar and fat, such as cakes and cookies. She also stressed the importance of being aware of the signs of dehydration.
“Elderly individuals are at an increased risk for dehydration. It is important they drink sufficient amounts of liquids, ideally water, and limit stimulants such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks. Fruits and vegetables, broth-based soups, and smoothies can also be an excellent source of hydration. It is wise to avoid pickled foods, and foods high in salt, which can lead to dehydration,” said Ms. Elissawi.
Ms. Elissawi also recommends performing light exercises during the day, saying even simple movements that flex the joints and stretch the body can be helpful. She says getting sufficient amounts of rest and sleep is also very important, and she notes the significance of
making meals a social experience for elderly individuals.
“While it is important to get adequate rest, sleeping directly after the Suhoor and Iftar meals should be avoided as this will impact digestion. Try to help make it easy for your loved one to share their meals with family or friends as the mental and emotional benefits of socializing during meals can be tremendous for the elderly, especially for those who are sometimes isolated,” said Ms. Elissawi.
Ms. Elissawi says there are a number of benefits to fasting, provided the individual is in good health. She says fasting can improve conditions like hypertension.
“Fasting can reduce cholesterol levels and can help detoxify the body. For some elderly individuals, fasting can improve their health, but others cannot safely fast. Elderly individuals are at an increased risk for dehydration, and those with medical conditions such as diabetes or low blood sugar can experience spikes and crashes in their blood sugar levels if they fast, so it is very important to talk to your doctor first if you have any underlying health conditions. It is also important to break the fast at the first sign of any negative health impacts and to seek medical treatment when needed,” said Ms. Elissawi.
HMC is asking patients who are unable to attend their appointment as a result of their Ramadan-related commitments, to please call Nesma'ak at 16060 so the appointment can be rebooked. This will also allow the appointment slot to be assigned to another patient.
The Ministry of Public Health, HMC, and Primary Health Care Corporation wish to remind members of the public about the Ramadan Health website and companion smartphone and tablet app. The Ramadan Health website is Qatar's first online resource devoted to health and wellness during the Holy Month. Visit the Ramadan Health website at www.hamad.qa/ramadanhealth, or download the app to your phone or tablet by searching for ‘Qatar Health’ (available for iOS and Android operating systems).