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Doctor helps spread awareness, tips for safely observing Ramadan

Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer and reflection for Muslims — but for some with medical conditions — fasting can sometimes be dangerous.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Ramadan, which starts Friday, is a month of fasting, prayer and reflection for Muslims — but for some with medical conditions — the fasting can sometimes be dangerous.

However, there are things you can do to stay safe. Dr. Salahudin Maalim with Health Partners, along with one of his patients, are helping get out the word.

“I never used to go to the doctor. I am not a doctor's person,” says Nezam Husain.

That all changed eight years ago. Nezam Husain was fasting and praying and falling asleep at work. It's what finally prompted him to go to the doctor. Good thing, too, because Nezam had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. He ended up having triple bypass surgery, so these days, Ramadan looks different for him.

“I realize that I can't fast now," he says.

The same is true for many Muslims, but getting people to go against religious tradition is hard.

“During Ramadan, a lot of our patients fall into a trap, and we have had a few patients who have had very serious side effects, including some of them who almost died from hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar,” said Dr. Maalim.

Dr. Maalim says there are groups of people who are exempt from fasting like the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. But for those who still insist, Dr. Maalim says it's important to have a conversation with your doctor.

“There are specific guidelines from the American Diabetic Association on what kind of medications patients can take, which ones they cannot, which ones need to be adjusted,” he says.

And remember, fasting isn't your only option.

“Instead of fasting, I'm paying charity one meal per day for the month of Ramadan, and I pay that to a person who cannot afford a decent meal,” said Nezam.

"By doing charity, it compensates for where I am lacking in my religious duties,” he explains.

Click here for more from The International Diabetes Federation on Ramadan fasting guidelines.

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