Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Start preparing for the Yom Kippur fast now

Sep 19, 2007 21:40 | Updated Sep 19, 2007 22:26

Those who plan to fast on Yom Kippur from Friday evening to Saturday night should prepare now by "filling up their tank" with water to reduce the problem of dehydration. Heavy consumers of coffee should gradually reduce their intake so the lack of caffeine during the 25-hour fast does not cause them headaches.

Dr. Joe Jamal, CEO of the Terem urgent medical care centers, recommends that on the two days prior to the fast, one should drink at least 10 to 12 cups of water per day. Trying to drink all of this water just before the fast doesn't work as well because it is difficult hard to drink a couple of liters of water just hours before the fast, especially if you just ate, and your body is better able to distributes the water if it is introduced slowly.

A number of small meals over the course of the day before the fast is better than one large meal, he suggests. These meals should be well balanced, including some protein (like eggs and tuna), sources of sugar (like breads and pasta) and some vegetables. Don't snack on junk food, Jamal says. The last meal of the day should include "slow-release" complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, pasta, potatoes, couscous,corn, rice and pulses. Salty and spicy foods should be avoided and these can make you very thirsty soon into the fast.

While fasting, try to avoid too much physical activity, especially in hot weather. Try to stay in a cool, preferably air conditioned environment and try to do as little activity as possible.

One of the most common causes of headaches during a fast is lack of caffeine in people who normally drink large amounts of coffee, cola and tea. Slowly reducing intake over a few days before the fast eliminates this problem.

While this advice is pertinent to healthy people, those who take medication, have had recent surgery, are pregnant or have any chronic medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer must consult their doctors to ensure that fasting will not harm their health. No one, says Jamal, should stop taking medications without first asking their doctor.

Most nursing women can fast without problem and should continue to nurse as usual. If they stop feeding or pumping milk, they could suffer inflammation and pain.

If during the fast your blood pressure or blood sugar falls significantly and you feel very weak and dizzy, you may need to drink and/or eat a small amount and then rest until you feel better. If you continue to feel very weak or generally ill, seek immediate medical attention.

The best way to end the fast is to drink a couple of glasses of water or sugared drink. The first meal of solid food should be a light one. If you are still hungry, wait an hour or two after the light meal. Eating too quickly or too much after a fast can cause abdominal pain and sometimes even vomiting.

Magen David Adom reminds the public that on Yom Kippur, an average of 200 children riding bicycles, roller blades, skates and skateboards in near-empty streets are injured. This is five times the usual accident rate for 24 hours. Children should be supervised and wear helmets, as well as knee and elbow protectors. If they go out at night, they must wear light clothing and have reflective tapes on their bikes.

Beterem, the National Center for Child Safety and Health, said that with the new law requiring all on wheels (bicycles, skateboards, roller blades, skates and the like) to wear a protective helmet coming into effect at the end of September, all children, teenagers and adults should observe it. A survey has shown that 92 percent of the public support the law. Today, half of all children on bicycles already wear a helmet; only a year ago, 75% of children rode without one. In addition, 87% of adults think the law would help them persuade their children to wear a helmet at all times while on wheels, as those who don't wear one will be in the minority.

The helmet, which lasts for three to five years from purchase, should be fitted for each wearer. Let children pick theirs out, as if they like the color and style, they are more likely to want to wear it.

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