heart healthy fasting
heart healthy fasting

The Best Heart Health Tips For Fasting

Posted on March 4, 2024 by Henry Ford Health Staff

People choose to fast—abstaining from eating and drinking for a defined period—for many reasons, including religious observances such as Ramadan and to achieve health goals.

Some fasts involve eating and drinking only during certain hours of the day. Others recommend limiting meals on one or more days per week. If you have heart disease, you may wonder how eating this way could affect your heart health.

According to Mohammad Alqarqaz, M.D., a cardiologist at Henry Ford Health, it depends on the type and severity of your heart condition. “Research and expert consensus suggest that fasting can be safe for many people with heart disease. Some studies suggest fasting can lead to weight loss, improve blood pressure control and reduce inflammation. Your doctor can assess whether fasting is safe for you based on the type and severity of your cardiac disease and recommend a fasting plan to maintain your heart health.”

See Your Cardiologist Before Fasting

Every person with heart disease has different medical needs. One person with heart failure may be able to fast while another person with more severe disease should not.

Your cardiologist can determine whether fasting—for religious reasons or to lose weight—is safe for you by:

  • Assessing your current heart health
  • Reviewing your medications
  • Evaluating other health conditions that could worsen with fasting

“If you have stable heart disease, fasting may be safe. Your doctor can explain how to adjust your medication schedule to maintain your heart health. For example, medications taken twice daily can be taken before and after fasting,” says Dr. Alqarqaz.

He cautions that people with more severe or unstable heart disease should avoid fasting. Likewise, individuals with certain genetic conditions that affect heart function, such as cardiomyopathy, shouldn’t fast.

“Some people with heart disease also have other chronic conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension), kidney disease or diabetes. For these individuals, fasting may increase the risk of dehydration and other complications,” says Dr. Alqarqaz. “If your chronic condition is under control, you may be able to fast. But check with your doctor to learn what’s right for you.”

Tips For Fasting With Heart Disease

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If you have heart disease and choose to fast, Dr. Alqarqaz stresses that maintaining healthy lifestyle habits is critical:

  • Choose well-balanced meals with a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains to keep you fueled while fasting.
  • Eat small, frequent meals before and after fasting to prevent overeating.
  • Avoid foods high in saturated fat and sodium.
  • Drink water at regular intervals after breaking the fast to avoid dehydration.

It’s also important to keep moving to maintain heart health if you choose long periods of fasting. According to the American Heart Association, you should aim to get about 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise weekly.

If you’re fasting, you may need to modify your activity to accommodate your eating schedule. People who observe Ramadan, for example, may want to delay exercise until after they break the fast in the evening. Those who do intermittent fasting might want to exercise during the hours of the day when they can eat to make workout recovery easier.

Signs You Should Stop Fasting

Even if your doctor has given you the green light to fast, you should continue to monitor your health. Dr. Alqarqaz recommends that you stop fasting and seek medical care if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Fluid buildup around your ankles
  • Shortness of breath
  • Significant decrease in urination

“While fasting can be safe for many people with heart disease, it’s not right for everyone. Finding other ways to observe religious traditions is acceptable if you can’t fast or need to stop fasting,” says Dr. Alqarqaz. “Likewise, there are many weight loss alternatives to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Talk with your doctor about options that prioritize your heart and overall health.”

Reviewed by Dr. Mohammad Alqarqaz, a cardiologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center - Plymouth.
Categories : FeelWell

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