Taking care of yourself can affect multiple sclerosis progression and lifespan

Improving overall wellness with MS can be challenging, and it’s important to seek out the assistance and encouragement of health care professionals, friends and family along the way.

Living with multiple sclerosis (MS) often means paying attention to wellness and diet, since taking care of yourself can affect disease progression — even lifespan.

Wellness is essential to modifying the disease course, treating relapses, managing symptoms and promoting safety and independence.

People living with MS can consider physical activity and diet as another kind of medicine, said Geeta Ganesh, M.D., MPH, neurologist and MS specialist at Norton Neuroscience Institute.

Dr. Ganesh spoke at the 2020 Neuroscience Expo. The upcoming  2021 Neuroscience Expo will be held Oct. 22 and includes an MS track.

Physical wellness includes regular physical activity geared to individual abilities, weight control, MS care and primary care, according to Dr. Ganesh. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol use also can help.

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Talk to your primary care provider about age, family history and ways to prevent dementia.

To understand how lifestyle can affect MS, the National MS Society brought together a group of experts in the fields of MS, exercise, rehabilitation and physical activity.

The group came up with recommendations for those living with MS, including at least 150 minutes per week of exercise or physical activity — 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This can be broken up into smaller blocks of time throughout the day.

People with MS should set goals with their health care provider. If disability increases and physical activity becomes more challenging, the goals should be reevaluated. Some may need to work with exercise specialists trained in MS to ensure safety.

Once the goals are set, strive for gradual progress, based on abilities.

In addition to physical wellness, living with MS can include other aspects of wellness.

Wellness and living with MS

  • Emotional wellness. Develop coping strategies to enhance problem-solving, manage stress and foster a positive outlook. Develop resilience in the face of unpredictable changes while paying attention to mood changes, including depression, that may require treatment.
  • Occupational wellness. Engage in meaningful and rewarding activities that promote a sense of purpose and accomplishment, including opportunities to contribute one’s unique skills, talents and knowledge to others at home, at work or in the community.
  • Spiritual wellness. Develop a worldview that provides a sense of peace and harmony, and enables you to cope and adapt throughout life with the ultimate goal of finding meaning and purpose in the face of personal challenges.
  • Social wellness. Develop positive healthy relationships that nurture interconnectedness with family, friends and community. Promote active engagement in a social network of meaningful and rewarding friendships and intimate relationships.
  • Intellectual cognitive wellness. Engage in mentally stimulating and challenging activities that lead to personal growth, enhanced creativity and new learning, while developing the ability to think objectively and independently.

Improving overall wellness can be challenging, and it’s important to seek out the assistance and encouragement of health care professionals, friends and family along the way.

Talk to those close to you about your goals and ask for their support as you seek to eat better, get exercise, stop smoking get out of the house more or whatever you want to change, according to Dr. Ganesh.

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