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Friday, June 16, 2017

A multiple sclerosis journey: The path to achieve wellness

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Physicians define wellness as the process of obtaining optimal health, a journey involving education, planning and action. For the more than 2,500 Southern Nevada residents living with multiple sclerosis, this journey is often filled with day-to-day obstacles. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks tissues, causing life-altering and debilitating symptoms. The team at the Mellen Program for MS at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health strives to meet the ever-changing needs of patients by encouraging them to make health and wellness a priority.

MS is a lifelong disease with far-reaching implications causing fatigue and problems with flexibility and movement as a result of spasticity and weakness. With an MS diagnosis, the risk for becoming physically disabled increases; and factoring in poor lifestyle choices, as well as additional health disorders, can make that risk for disability even greater.

Multiple research studies have indicated that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help improve the quality of life in patients with MS. There are many variables, including exercise, nutrition, lifestyle choices, health maintenance, sleep pattern, mental health awareness and occupational/social/intellectual health.

Exercise: Several investigations have shown that patients with MS are less physically active than the general population. This could be a result of pain or weakness, which are common symptoms, but the lack of physical activity can have wide-ranging and negative effects. Originally, exercise was thought to be unsafe in patients with MS, especially for those living in hot climates like Las Vegas, as increased heat and overexertion can temporarily increase MS-related symptoms as the core body temperature rises. However, unlike previously thought, exercise is considered safe in MS and should be implemented in weekly routines. Aerobics and muscle strengthening are recommended, as these can prevent and even improve accumulation of disability, symptoms and overall quality of life. For those living with MS in warmer climates, consider exercising in an air-conditioned room, having cold water and hand-held fans readily available, include frequent rest breaks, and employ aquatic therapy if available.

Nutrition: Those with MS should avoid food that is processed and high in saturated fats, refined sugars and salt. Instead, focus on an anti-inflammatory, plant-based diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. It is also important to incorporate food that is high in fiber to minimize constipation, a common symptom of MS. Additionally, several studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is a huge risk factor for MS, which is why we recommend that those living with MS should take a vitamin D3 supplement on a daily basis. Vitamin D dosages are highly variable, so it’s important to discuss how much vitamin D3 one should take with an MS doctor and routinely monitor blood levels.

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