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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Your Everyday Guide to Living Well With MS

By Becky Upham -  Medically Reviewed by Samuel Mackenzie, MD, PhD
January 2020

Following a healthy diet is one part of living well with multiple sclerosis.
Getty Images

If you have multiple sclerosis (MS) or know someone who does, you know that a big piece of living with the condition is the heightened uncertainty of what each day may bring; the ups and downs of the condition are well beyond what most healthy people can understand. Even if you’ve grown to accept your “new normal,” it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. Learning about the additional challenges that may come along and how to navigate them can make a huge difference in quality of life, both for you and those around you.

The following tips, tools, and resources can help you to live well with multiple sclerosis.

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Managing Daily Life and Complications of MS

Paying attention to your symptoms and how your body feels is critical to staying healthy when you have MS. Pushing too hard for too long can lead to a worsening of symptoms or even a flare-up, or relapse. But adhering to a healthy lifestyle can be easier said than done as many of the challenges of MS — lack of mobility, financial strains, or even depression — often make even harder to do what you know you should do. Figuring out what works for you — and what doesn’t — can help you live your best life with MS.

Diet for MS

How what we eat can improve or worsen various chronic illnesses is a growing area of research. Although some people with MS may experience some symptom relief when they eliminate or add certain foods to their diet, there’s no evidence yet that any particular diet can impact disease progression in MS.
It’s a good idea to discuss any specific dietary changes you’d like to make with your doctor; some popular diets could have a negative impact on MS. Currently, the diet recommended for MS is similar to what’s recommended for everyone: lots of fiber, fruits, and vegetables, and limits on the amounts of unhealthy fats and sugar you eat. Staying at a healthy weight is important for everyone but particularly if you have MS. Having obesity can increase your risk for fatigue and depression, and obesity in children and teens has been associated with an increased risk for MS later in life.

Exercising With MS

Although the fatigue and pain that often comes with MS can make physical activity difficult, exercising can improve mobility and make you feel better. A physical therapist or specially trained exercise professional can share specific exercises designed to improve foot drop, walking, balance, and going from sitting to standing.
It’s also possible to increase your strength, flexibility, and level of fitness when you have MS. Although exercise can lead to soreness and fatigue, working with an expert can help ensure sure you don’t overdo it. A consistent program that builds your strength and stamina can actually help reduce fatigue in the long run.

Managing Your Prescriptions for MS

When it comes to medication to treat MS, there are more options than ever before — currently, there are 18 approved disease-modifying therapies. Once you’re diagnosed and you and your neurologist decide the best medication for your situation, you’ll want to start treatment as soon as possible.
“Whether you have a slowly or rapidly progressing form of MS, a disease-modifying therapy will reduce the relapse rate by up to 50 percent,” says Michael Hutchinson, MD, PhD, an associate clinical professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Once your doctor decides what therapy is right for you, you’ll be shown the correct way to take your medicine. It can take time to determine if the drug is working appropriately or whether or not you should switch medication. In many cases, you’ll need to have periodic blood tests to make sure your body is metabolizing and responding to the medication appropriately.
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