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5 Tips for Overcoming MS

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Part 1 of 7: Overview
The basics
  1. MS symptoms can change over time, so it helps to be flexible and open to new approaches.
  2. A well-balanced diet is important to your overall health.
  3. If you or a loved one is having trouble talking about MS, consider professional counseling.

MS is a chronic disease. Once you have it, you have it for life. There are ways to manage the condition and overcome symptoms. Most people with MS lead active, fulfilling lives.

Once you have a diagnosis, you’ll make some decisions about disease-modifying medications. Together with your neurologist and general physician, you can explore your options for controlling symptoms and recovering from relapses.

Along the way, you’ll discover which therapies and coping strategies work best for you. MS symptoms can change over time, so it helps to be flexible and open to new approaches.

Whatever else you do, these five tips will give you the foundation you need to thrive with MS.

Part 2 of 7: Diet and nutrition
Tip #1: Eat well

There aren’t many controlled studies involving diet and MS, so there isn’t a recommended diet for people with MS. The disease affects everyone differently, and you may find that one dietary approach helps you feel better than others. If you choose a special diet, make sure you’re getting all of the nutrients that you need.

There’s no doubt that a well-balanced diet is important to your overall health. With that in mind, your diet should emphasize these foods:

  • vegetables and fruits (fresh, canned, or frozen)
  • whole grains
  • fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products

You should also include:

  • lean meats
  • poultry
  • fish
  • beans
  • nuts
  • eggs

Try to avoid foods that contain:

  • saturated fats
  • trans fats
  • cholesterol
  • added sugars

You should also be tested for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. If you have any, your doctor can advise you how to correct this. Be sure to mention any dietary supplements you already take.

Calories matter. If you’re having difficulties with weight management, you may need to eat smaller portions. You should also steer clear of highly processed foods that provide little or no nutritional benefit. They’re usually packed with calories.

You’ll feel better if you consistently eat well. A healthy diet can keep you strong and help prevent additional health problems.

Part 3 of 7: Exercise
Tip #2: Get moving

Exercise is important to maintaining a healthy weight, which can help with mobility issues. It also helps to prevent comorbidities such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Regular physical activity can improve mood and ease symptoms of fatigue and depression.

The key is to set realistic goals. In general, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise twice a week is good. It’s even better if you can add strength training once or twice a week. It’s OK if you can’t do this right away. You can start slowly and build up to it. If you haven’t exercised in a long time, consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Find activities that interest you. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Hit the pool. Even if you don’t like to swim, exercising in a swimming pool can be helpful. The water offers buoyancy and support, and you’re less likely to become overheated in the water.
  • Play games. Studies are limited, but there is some evidence to suggest that using a Nintendo Wii Fit may benefit people with mild to moderate MS. The system has games that involve yoga, strength, balance, and aerobic training. Another perk is that you can do it at home on your own timetable.
  • Get professional guidance. This may be particularly helpful if you have mobility issues. Set up a session with a physical or occupational therapist. They can recommend specific exercises and adaptive equipment to make exercising easier. Or find a personal trainer who has some knowledge of MS.
  • Take a class. If you have a hard time getting motivated to exercise, consider signing up for classes at your local gym or rec center. Never tried yoga or tai chi? Try something new and sign up for a beginner’s class.

Part 4 of 7: Eliminate bad habits
Tip #3: Kick your bad habits
Sometimes good health is about what you don’t do. You should:

  • Stop smoking. Smoking has been identified as a risk factor in developing MS, as well as hastening disease progression. It may also interfere with some disease-modifying medications.
  • Go easy on alcohol, especially if you take medications that interact with alcohol. Alcohol can interfere with balance and coordination, which can make mobility problems worse and increase the danger of falls and injury.
  • Ditch the saltshaker. At least one small observational study suggests that high sodium intake is linked to more MS disease activity. In addition, salt can increase risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
  • Don’t skip your meds. If you choose to take one of the disease-modifying drugs for MS, it’s vital that you take them exactly as instructed. Skipping can make them less effective.

Part 5 of 7: Maintain relationships
Tip #4: Balance relationships

MS is a life changer, not just for you, but for your family as well. Things can get a little complicated if a loved one is also a caregiver.

Every family member will react to circumstances in their own way. Open communication and patience from all parties is vital.

If you or a loved one is having trouble talking about MS, consider professional counseling to get things started in the right direction. Some MS support groups encourage family participation.

Strong relationships at home can help all of you cope with MS.

Part 6 of 7: Stay involved
Tip #5: Stay socially active

When you first learn you have MS, it’s natural to focus on physical changes. It’s also important to tend to your emotional wellness.

It’s tempting to avoid social situations when you have mobility issues or are dealing with debilitating fatigue. There are times when staying home to get some extra rest is truly the best thing for you. However, avoiding social outings too often can make things worse.

Research shows that social isolation can take a toll on long-term health and well-being. You don’t have to do anything fancy. Just hanging out and talking with friends is beneficial.

You’re so much more than a person with MS. Spend time with people who enrich your life. Participate in the activities that bring you joy. Positive social connections tend to make you happier and healthier.

Part 7 of 7: Takeaway
The bottom line
There’s always something new to learn about coping with MS.

Work with your healthcare team. Visit with your general physician and neurologist at least once a year. That’s a good time to revisit your symptoms and treatment. Be sure to mention new or worsening symptoms.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by HEALTHLINE
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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