1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email

Top 10 Ways to Increase Life Expectancy with Multiple Sclerosis

Live a Long Life with MS

By

Updated December 05, 2008

Having multiple sclerosis has little impact on overall life expectancy in most cases. For the most part, the same guidelines and suggestions about healthy aging and longevity apply for people with MS as do for everybody else. To live a long and healthy life, you have to take care of your heart, your brain and the rest of your body. Follow these 10 ways to live long with MS, and make your later years your best years.

1. Think Positive About Aging

Studies have shown that people with a positive attitude toward aging live longer by a significant amount: 7.5 years. Find things to look forward to as you get older. This is especially important in the face of MS symptoms. Spend some time thinking about what you can look forward to as you age such as increased time and wisdom, the ability to focus more on the important things in life or increasing your spirituality.

2. Eat Well

Your body needs plenty of nutrients and antioxidants from vegetables and other healthy foods. Do not neglect your nutrition as you age. Try to increase the amount of vegetables you eat while decreasing sugar, dairy (especially cheese) and processed foods. This will help keep inflammation down and help keep your immune system calm.

3. Move Your Body

Exercise is critical in any healthy aging plan. Figure out ways you can exercise and get physical activity without overheating and triggering the effects of MS-related heat intolerance. Troubleshoot any disability you might have. Focus on balance and flexibility. Your doctor can write you a prescription for physical therapy, which can help you build your muscles, improve balance or move more efficiently. Ask trainers and instructors to help solve your problems. A good yoga instructor, for example, should be able to help customize a routine for your body. Yoga for MS has been shown to be very helpful for some individuals.

4. Keep Your Brain Sharp

Cognitive symptoms are common in both MS and in aging. Although not many medications can boost memory or other cognitive problems (however, there is a drug used for memory problems in people with Alzheimers disease called Aricept that is being tested in people with MS), there are things you can do. Specialists such as neuropsychologists, psychologists, speech pathologists and occupational therapist can help with cognitive rehabilitation. You can be proactive by giving your brain a daily workout to preserve memory and sharpness. Try doing puzzles, playing memory games and challenging yourself with new thoughts, ideas and puzzles. Be engaged and interested in the world and your brain will stay as sharp as possible.

5. Relax

Being stressed is unhealthy for anyone: It drains you of energy, worsens your sleep and damages your long-term health. Stress can also interact with the immune system. Learn and practice relaxation techniques every day and prepare ahead of time for stressful situations by creating a relapse plan.

6. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Your body has enough to cope with already: Don't make its job harder by being overweight. The extra weight on your body will shorten your life and create additional health conditions. Work hard to lose the weight, and you'll feel and look better.

7. Be Social

Getting out and being with other people not only makes life fun and interesting, it also helps improve your mood and protect your brain from cognitive decline. Join a few groups and be sure to socialize with others as often as you can. Talk about your MS with your friends – it sometimes helps you feel better just to have someone listen. If you feel like withdrawing socially, very sad, or like you have lost interest in things or people that you used to like, you may have depression, a common MS symptom. Seek help for your depression from a doctor and don't suffer needlessly.

8. Stay on Top of Your MS

If you are getting treated for MS, stay on top of the injections. Find a doctor that you like and can have a long-term relationship with as you work as partners to keep you as healthy as possible. Be 100-percent compliant with your doctor's instructions. Be sure that you are getting regular check-ups to monitor your MS. Do everything possible to make your MS better.

9. Get Help

Ask for help when you need it. Professional help is available for you if you have physical disability or are feeling depressed. Occupational therapists, physical therapists and counselors can all help you overcome some of the symptoms of MS. You can also seek out support groups and other resources for help. Take an active role and ask for help when you need it.

10. Focus on Sleep

Fatigue is a huge problem in MS and when you do not get enough sleep during the night, that only makes things worse. Sleep disturbances are common in people with MS, due to spasms, depression or anxiety, pain, the frequent need to urinate at night (nocturia) or because of side effects of medications (corticosteroids like Solu-Medrol are notorious for causing sleep disturbances). Keep your energy levels as high as possible by creating strong sleep habits and see your doctor if your insomnia continues. By sleeping enough, sleeping soundly and falling asleep quickly, you will get the rest you need. This will help maintain your energy level.
Related Video
Make a PowerPoint Multiple Choice Quiz

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.