On the occasion of World MS Day, doctors and staff from the Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune Neurology Center at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi shared what you should do to stay healthy if you have MS. Here’s how you can still live a healthy and fulfilling life with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis:
1) Good for the heart? Good for the brain…
MS attacks the central nervous system, which is in the brain and spinal chord. Staying on top of your brain health might be easier than you think. Dr Anu Jacob, director of the Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune Neurology Center at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, says that what is good for the heart is good for the brain.
That means managing controllable risk factors like diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol and weight through routine physical activity, a balanced diet and by not smoking. Dr Jacob explains: “We all know smoking is bad for us, but its effects, which last for about 10 years, are worse on those with MS. So if you have MS, please quit today.”
2) Exercise is good for the brain…
Did you know exercise helps rewire the brain, helps stimulate new neuron growth, reduces demyelination and increases remyelination? So while exercise is good for all of us, Dr Jacob says exercise should be part of every MS patient’s lifestyle. That doesn’t have to mean CrossFit or Spartan races — a simple daily walk can make all the difference.
3) Maintain your vitamin D levels
Gina Lee, Cleveland Clinic’s multiple sclerosis coordinator, explains there is some nascent evidence suggesting that vitamin D deficiency can have an adverse effect on the disease progression of someone with MS.
Just 20 minutes in the sun, 3 times a week can be enough to keep your vitamin D levels healthy. If that’s not enough for you, increase your intake of foods that are rich in vitamin D levels — oily fish, like salmon or tuna, and eggs, and of course you can always take supplements.
4) Take care of your sleep…
Lee also explains that lack of sleep can cause MS symptoms to worsen and affect mental health. MS patients need to be “make sure to be getting eight to nine hours of sleep each night, and try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day”.
5) Manage stress levels
“Stress can cause worsening of chronic physical and mental health conditions including MS,” says Lee.
Healthy ways to cope with stress include: deep breathing and meditation, exercising, healthy eating, sleep, making time for activities you enjoy, and staying connected with people and a supportive community.
More resources for multiple sclerosis patients can be found on Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s new MS website, available in English and Arabic.
Alexa Mena is a multidisciplinary artist and media editor for livehealthy.ae. When she's not writing for livehealthy, she's thinking about design and how it shapes the human experience.