Study Shows MS Symptoms Improved With Lifestyle Factors
Accessing healthy food and physical activities appear to decrease the risk of disease progression in multiple sclerosis patients.
New research suggests that if you are able to manage your nutrition, exercise and other health-related lifestyle factors, you have a much better chance of controlling the disease and feeling well.
New research has investigated how wealth and education affect MS disease progression.
MS is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks myelin, the fatty material that insulates neurons to enable rapid transmission of electrical signals.
When myelin or neurons are damaged, communication between the brain and other parts of the body is disrupted leading to impaired ability including vision problems, muscle weakness, difficulty with balance and coordination, and cognitive decline.
Most people who live with MS will experience some form of reduced ability.
Socioeconomic Status and Autoimmune Diseases
Socioeconomic status (SES) is a hierarchical social classification associated with different outcomes in health and disease.
The most important factors influencing SES are income, educational level, occupational class, social class, and ancestry. These factors are closely related to each other as they present certain dependent interactions.
Neighborhood income and education level is associated with risk of disability progression in patients with multiple sclerosis, suggests new research from the University of British Columbia.
UBC researchers, along with colleagues in Wales, compared population health data across several measures of socioeconomic status, and found that lower neighborhood-level income and educational attainment was associated with an increased likelihood of reaching key physical disability milestones, such as difficulties with walking.
The findings—published online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology—paint a clearer picture of the way that wealth and education might affect patients with MS.
“This study is the first of its kind,” says the study’s senior author Helen Tremlett, professor in the division of neurology at UBC and the Canada Research Chair in neuroepidemiology and multiple sclerosis.
Lower income and education levels correlate with higher incidence of increased progression of MS disability.
“Previous studies have looked at the relationship between socioeconomic status and risk of developing MS. Here, we were able to show a relationship between socioeconomic status and subsequent risk of disability progression.”
Neighborhood and Income Level
As the Welsh and Canadian systems for tracking population health data are similar, the team was able to access comparable information for the two groups of patients.
For the Canadian patients, the team determined socioeconomic status based on census data, which links postal codes with neighborhood-level income.
Clinical information from a provincial MS database was linked with population-based provincial health administrative data.
The Welsh patients were assessed by linking similar datasets, including National Health Service information, postal code-related income data and educational attainment.
A key component of this study was that the data on socioeconomic status were captured before MS onset, therefore predating any possible effect of the disease itself on socioeconomic status.
Where You Live = How You Live?
The research did not look at specific factors that might explain the relationship between lower socioeconomic status and higher risk of disability progression.
However, the researchers suggest that modifiable lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, could be involved.
“If that is the case, the risk may be amenable to change,” says Tremlett. “One of the next steps is to understand why this relationship exists.”
Living Well and Feeling Well
North Vancouver resident Marilyn Lenzen, who was diagnosed with MS nearly two decades ago, says she wasn’t surprised to learn that researchers have now established a clear link between socioeconomic status and disability progression in patients with MS.
“I’m glad to see that there is now research that backs up what I and many in the MS community have been experiencing for years,” says Lenzen.
“Someone who has the financial means to buy healthier food or afford to participate in yoga, pilates or specialized exercise to rebuild their strength after a relapse doesn’t experience the same progression of disabling symptoms as others who can’t afford to access the same healthy lifestyle choices.”
After her diagnosis, Lenzen, now 59, could no longer keep up with the long hours and extensive travel required by her corporate job.
When she gave up her job, however, she also lost her extended health benefits and experienced a significant decline in household income.
“When I was first diagnosed, I remember having to crawl on my knees up the stairs to get to bed every night,” she recalls. “But I was determined to exercise and to keep my muscles strong. I took up cycling and with the assistance of an e-bike, cycled 3,000 kilometers last year.
“I do still have occasional relapses but the relapses are not as bad and I have the strength in my body to rebuild again. I wish that everyone with MS, regardless of their socioeconomic status, has the same lifestyle opportunities to slow the progression of their disease.”
Now, Lenzen’s occasional relapses aren’t as severe, and her body strength helps her rebuild again.
The researchers hope that future MS studies will consider the socioeconomic status of participants, especially if multiple study sites are involved and findings are compared across regions, as their socioeconomic status could be an important factor in disability progression.
While this research doesn’t look specifically at lifestyle factors, it’s easy to infer the potential dissimilarities between the upper and lower socioeconomic groups studied.
This is encouraging and empowering news, because it shows that healthy lifestyle habits likely have a strong influence on MS symptoms and progression.
You may not be able to control where you live, but improvements in lifestyle habits can almost always be implemented.
A nutritious diet, regular exercise, stress management and other wellness strategies can help you manage your symptoms and reduce your risk of disease progression.
Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: The Evidence Based 7 Step Recovery Program
Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis explains the nature of MS and outlines an evidence-based 7 step program for recovery.
Professor George Jelinek, MD, devised the program from an exhaustive analysis of medical research when he was first diagnosed with MS in 1999.
It has been refined through major ongoing international clinical studies under Professor Jelinek’s leadership, examining the lifestyles of several thousand people with MS world-wide and their health outcomes.
Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis is invaluable for anyone recently diagnosed with MS, living with MS for years, or with a family member with MS. It makes an ideal resource for doctors treating people with MS.
Everyday Health and Fitness with Multiple Sclerosis: Achieve Your Peak Physical Wellness while Working with Limited Mobility
David Lyons was a healthy bodybuilder and gym owner when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006 at the age of 47.
The doctors told him he would rapidly decline and require a wheelchair.
Instead, David battled the disease in the gym and challenged himself by competing in an NPC bodybuilding competition.
David and his wife Kendra then founded the MS Fitness Challenge, which provides certified fitness professionals to people with MS nationwide for 12 weeks at no cost as well as a gym membership, in an effort to educate and train them in the benefits of exercise and nutrition.
David Lyons’ Everyday Health and Fitness with Multiple Sclerosis is designed to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
It includes anecdotes from real people with MS, their limitations and how they followed this plan to reach their fitness goals.
The customizable, high-intensity, calorie-burning workout builds lean muscle mass.
You’ll find advice and solutions for overcoming mental hurdles, nutrition fundamentals to properly fuel workouts, easily adaptable exercises, and motivation.
Everyday Heath and Fitness is a road map for every person who wants to conquer a disease or disability, and just get moving.
The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: A DIY Guide to Living Well with Chronic Illness
The way autoimmune disease is viewed and treated is undergoing a major change as an estimated 50 million Americans (and growing) suffer from these conditions. For many patients, the key to true wellness is in holistic treatment, although they might not know how to begin their journey to total recovery.
The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook by Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt is a comprehensive guide to living healthfully with autoimmune disease.
While conventional medicine is limited to medication or even surgical fixes, Trescott and Alt introduce a complementary solution that focuses on seven key steps to recovery:
Each step demystifies the process to reclaim total mind and body health.
With five autoimmune conditions between them, Trescott and Alt have achieved astounding results using the premises laid out in the book.
The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook goes well beyond nutrition and provides the missing link so that you can get back to living a vibrant, healthy life.
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