[3 MIN READ]
For the nearly 1 million people with multiple sclerosis (MS), continuing to do the activities you love can sometimes be challenging. The disease affects your brain and spinal cord and may cause issues with coordination, balance, vision and thought processes. It’s only natural that your lifestyle would be affected. Although there is currently no cure for MS, you can still lead a healthy, active life after diagnosis.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has put together a list of tips to help you live well with MS. Here are five of them.
Watch your diet
Although there’s no special “MS Diet,” a nutritious, well-balanced diet that includes lots of fiber and not much fat will help keep your immune system in top shape and improve your health overall. Check out the USDA’s MyPlate website for tips, facts and useful resources to help you make healthy eating choices.
Beat the heat . . . and the cold
If you have MS, extreme temperatures—both hot and cold—can worsen your symptoms, cause pain, and temporarily limit your nerves’ ability to do their job correctly. To lessen the effects, stay in a temperature-controlled environment when extreme weather hits. Avoid overly hot baths and showers and skip the sauna or hot tub if they make your symptoms flare up.
Exercise is a vital part of a healthy life with or without MS. Regular exercise can help you manage your MS symptoms and improve your strength, mood, energy, flexibility, and ability to think.
The best type of exercise if you have MS is aerobic because it increases your heart rate. Moderate strength training can also be important for keeping your muscles strong and maintaining balance and coordination.
The best type of exercise if you have MS is aerobic because it increases your heart rate. Moderate strength training can also be important for keeping your muscles strong and maintaining balance and coordination. Before you make any changes to your activity level, talk to your doctor about ways to safely incorporate exercise into your regular routine.
Although exercise is key, staying active doesn’t always involve doing hundreds of sit-ups or running a marathon. Go to dinner with friends. Take a class. Learn to play a musical instrument. Try drawing or writing and even indoor or outdoor gardening. Explore new interests or fine-tune a hobby to keep your mind fresh. The key is to remain an active participant in your life despite the challenges MS presents.
Get enough rest
Many people with MS battle fatigue as a symptom. Your sleepiness may be occasional or constant and can vary in degrees. Getting enough restful sleep is an effective strategy for self-care and minimizing the effects of MS on your life. Regular bedtime routines and rituals help signal your body that it’s time to slow down and rest. Limiting caffeine and alcohol improves your ability to sleep well as does a cool, quiet, and dark environment. And recharging your batteries will give you more energy as you tackle the day ahead.
MS Adventure Program
The unique MS Adventure Program at Swedish allows people with MS to “discover a new passion or rediscover an old one,” according to Simon Gale, BA, BS, OTR/L, an occupational therapist and adventure guide. It also facilitates a community and connection with others who have the disease through group activities. The Adventure Program was conceived by Dr. James Bowen as a way for MS patients to get on with “the business of living,” said Simon.
A wide variety of activities are offered. The more daring events—like skydiving, skiing, or kayaking—are designed to push participants “out of their comfort zone,” Simon said. Others—like jewelry making or arts and crafts, tours of local attractions, or concert tickets—are a little more sedate. All activities are vetted thoroughly in advance to make sure they accommodate the group’s specific needs.
“We anticipate any situation that might occur and try to plan accordingly,” says Simon. “Some people do all the events and others just do certain activities. We offer a broad palette.”
The MS Adventure Program is part of the Multiple Sclerosis Center in the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. It is supported by funding from the Swedish Foundation, sponsorships and partnerships within the community, and private donations. All of its activities are offered free of charge or at a reduced rate to allow everyone the chance to participate.
“Everybody with MS has their story. If we get them out in a kayak or on a ski lift or just doing something new, it humanizes them." -- Simon Gale, Swedish MS Adventure Program
“This is a very unusual type of (MS) program. It builds confidence and makes people say, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ Once people get that feeling, it’s magic,” said Simon. “Everybody with MS has their story. If we get them out in a kayak or on a ski lift or just doing something new, it humanizes them. It’s the perfect way for those stories to come out. It’s just people being people.”
Find MS support at Swedish
If you have MS, the team at Swedish offers treatment options and an MS Adventure Program to help you live well with MS. Learn more about the Swedish Multiple Sclerosis Center at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
About the AuthorMore Content by Swedish Neuroscience Team