During Ramadan, there is a change in diet and quantity of food consumed by individuals. This means that you can only consume food at two times: at dawn and iftar (breaking of the fast at sunset). These changes affect the body’s metabolism and one’s overall health.
Heart and blood vessel disease are among the leading causes of death in the world. Ramadan fasts can cause a drastic lifestyle change for 1 month and may affect risk factors for heart and blood vessel diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke.
The risk factors most associated with the incidence of coronary heart disease and stroke are blood lipid levels, coagulation and blood clotting factors, high blood pressure, and smoking habits. Blood fat levels are influenced by changes in diet and type of food, consumption of refined sugar, and physical activity. Research shows that fasting in Ramadan can affect the various risk factors above.
Blood fat levels
Fat is one of the main factors causing heart disease and blood vessels. Fats can infiltrate the damaged blood vessels and cause atherosclerosis, the narrowing and blockage of blood vessels. Research conducted by Mohsen Nematy (2012) concluded that there was a change in fat profiles and the ratio of good fats and bad fats during fasting in Ramadan; blood cholesterol levels decreased from 193.4 ± 51 mg/dl to 184.3 ± 42 mg/Dl after Ramadan, as well as triglyceride and bad fats (LDL) levels decreased from 4.5 ± 1 mg/Dl to 3.9 ± 1 mg/Dl. In addition, the research also showed an increase of good fat (HDL) after the fasting of Ramadan.
High blood pressure
In people with high blood pressure, the heart must work harder in pumping blood than in normal people. This can lead to heart fatigue and can cause enlargement and thickening of the heart muscle, leading to heart failure. High blood pressure can also cause cerebral blood vessels to rupture, causing hemorrhagic stroke. During the month of Ramadan, there is a decrease in blood pressure in people who fast, i.e. systolic blood pressure (blood pressure when the heart is pumping blood) decreases from 132.9 ± 16 mmHg to 129.9 ± 17 mmHg, whereas at diastolic blood pressure (blood pressure when the heart is at rest), there is no significant decrease.
Insulin and homocysteine
A research conducted by Shariatpanah showed that dietary changes to twice a day during Ramadan can improve the condition of insulin resistance in diabetics. Homocysteine is one of the amino acids present in the body. An increase in blood homocysteine is one of the risk factors of heart and blood vessels diseases. Although not significant, there is a decrease in blood homocysteine levels when a person fasts.
Anthropometric parameters refer to the connection between a few body measurements such as height, weight, percentage body fat, and medical outcomes. Diabetes is often closely associated with an unbalanced body measurement.
Obesity is one of the risk factors for many metabolic diseases. People with obesity have lower levels of insulin in the body. Insulin helps convert glucose into energy for the body. Weight loss and lowered body mass index can happen to some people after a fast. If there is little changes in calorie in glucose intake, there might not be any weight loss after the fast.
Fasting is safe for people with heart disease
Ramadan fasting is safe for people with heart disease, provided that you control your condition. Eating just enough and not overeat during breaking will help reduce risk factors for heart and blood vessels diseases. In fact, hospital cases of heart disease tend to remain the same and do not increase during the fasting month. Moreover, studies show that Ramadan fast can reduce the risk of heart disease for 10 years. It can be concluded that fasting has a positive effect on heart health.
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Review Date: May 28, 2017 | Last Modified: May 3, 2018
Nematy, Mohsen. Alinezhad-Namaghi, Maryam. Mahdavi Rashed, Masoud et al. Effects of Ramadan fasting on cardiovascular risk factors: a prospective observational study. Nutrition Journal. 2012, 11:69.
Regards, Amar M. Salim, Imtiaz. Al Suwaid, Jassim. Ramadan Fasting and Cardiovascular Diseasein Effects of Ramadan Fasting on Health and Athletic Performance . USA: OMICS Group eBooks 2015.
Pasha MJ, Pasha HC. The cardiac patient in Ramadan . Avicenna J Med. 2016, 2: 33-38