With the help of new treatments, modern technology, and the dedication of scientists, researchers, and activists, it’s possible to live your best life with multiple sclerosis (MS).
These 15 tips can get you started on your journey to living well.
1. Learn everything you can
MS is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. It can cause a wide range of symptoms, which vary from person to person. There are several different types of MS and each requires a different treatment plan.
Learning everything you can about your diagnosis is the first step you can take to effectively manage your condition. Your doctor can provide you with informational pamphlets about MS, or you can read about it from organizations like the National MS Society.
Finding out the facts and clarifying any misconceptions about MS may make your diagnosis a bit easier to bear.
Scientists are also learning more and more about MS each day. So, it’s essential to stay up-to-date as new treatments make their way through the pipeline.
2. Stay current with new treatments and clinical trials
The National MS Society is a good resource for finding new clinical trials in your area.
You can also find a comprehensive listing of all past, present, and future clinical trials on ClinicalTrials.gov. If you find a clinical trial in your area, speak with your doctor to find out if you’re a candidate to participate in the trial.
3. Keep active
Daily exercise is essential for maintaining muscle strength and building endurance. Not getting enough physical activity can also increase your risk of developing osteoporosis — a condition where your bones can become thin and fragile. Exercise can also improve your mood and ward off fatigue.
Start off simple with low-impact exercises such as walking, biking, or swimming.
4. Practice good sleep hygiene
Practicing good sleep hygiene can give you a leg up when it comes to battling MS fatigue.
Here are some tried and true ways to help you get more restful sleep:
- Establish a bedtime routine. For example, take a warm bath and listen to soothing music right before bed.
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Stay away from bright screens before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening.
5. Find an MS buddy
You don’t have to go through this diagnosis alone. Log on to Healthline’s MS Buddy app (iPhone; Android) to connect with and talk to others living with MS. MS Buddy is a safe place for you to share your concerns and ask for advice from others who are going through some of the same experiences as you.
6. Assemble a team of doctors
MS is a lifelong disease, so it’s important to be under the care of an MS specialist who is a good match for you. Your primary care doctor can refer you to a team of other healthcare providers to help you manage all of your symptoms. Or, you can use this “Find Doctors & Resources” tool from the National MS Society.
The healthcare providers you may need to see include:
- a neurologist who specializes in MS
- a neuropsychologist to help manage your mental function, like memory, focus, information processing, and problem solving
- a physical therapist to work on overall strength, joint range of motion, coordination, and gross motor skills
- a psychologist or mental health counselor to help you cope with your diagnosis
- an occupational therapist, who can give you the tools to perform day-to-day tasks more efficiently
- a social worker to assist you with finding financial resources, entitlements, and community services
- a dietitian or nutritionist to help you maintain a healthy diet
- a speech-language pathologist if you’re having problems with speech, swallowing, or breathing
7. Eat well
Your diet is an important tool when it comes to living well with MS. While there’s no miracle diet for treating MS, consider aiming for a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein.
It’s also important to eat well in order to avoid gaining weight. Researchers have seen greater disability progression and more brain lesions in people living with MS who are overweight or obese.
Here are some other diet tips to consider:
- Eat a low-fat or plant-based diet. A
2016 studyfound that people with MS who adhered to a very low-fat, plant-based diet had improvements in their fatigue levels after 12 months. However, it didn’t show improvements on relapse rates or disability levels, so more research is needed.
- Get enough fiber. The recommended intake is at least 25 grams of fiber each day for women and 38 grams of fiber each day for men.This helps promote good bowel function.
- Reduce alcohol consumption.
- Eat foods high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Examples include fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), soybeans, canola oil, walnuts, flaxseeds, and sunflower oil. Some evidence suggests that eating these fats could reduce the severity and duration of MS attacks.
8. Divide and conquer chores
Housework can seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Divide up your chores to make them more manageable. For example, only clean one room a day or divide all the chores up in time segments throughout the day.
You can still get your cleaning done on your own, but you’ll avoid hurting yourself in the process.
9. Rearrange your home and work environment
Try to think strategically about how your home and workplace are set up.
You’ll may need to make some adjustments to suit your needs. For example, consider storing the kitchen tools that you use every day on the kitchen counter and in the most easy-to-reach cabinets. You may want to place heavy electric appliances, like blenders, on the countertop so you don’t have to constantly move them around.
Rearrange or get rid of furniture, rugs, and decor that take up too much floor space or could trip you as you move around your home. Remember that the more stuff you have, the harder it is to clean your house.
You can also talk to your employer to see if they’ll provide ergonomic equipment to make your work day easier. Examples include glare protection on computer screens, a trackball instead of a mouse, or even moving desk seating closer to the entrance.
10. Invest in nifty gadgets
New gadgets and small tools for the kitchen can make ordinary tasks easier and safer. For example, you may want to purchase a jar opener that makes opening up a vacuum-sealed jar lid a breeze.
11. Set reminders
MS can lead to symptoms like memory loss and issues concentrating. This can make it difficult to remember day-to-day tasks, like appointments and when to take your medication.
Phone apps and tools can help you work around memory problems. There are apps available that make it easy to see your calendar, take notes, make lists, and set alerts and reminders. One example is CareZone (iPhone; Android).
12. Get involved
MS support groups can connect you with other people living with MS and help you establish a network for exchanging ideas, new research, and good vibes. You can also join a volunteer program or activist group. You may find that participation in these types of organizations is incredibly empowering.
13. Keep cool
Many people with MS find that they’re sensitive to heat exposure. When your body temperature rises, your symptoms may become worse. Even just a slight temperature increase can impair nerve impulses enough to cause symptoms. This experience actually has its own name — Uhthoff’s phenomenon.
Try to keep yourself cool by avoiding hot showers and baths. Use air conditioning in your home and stay out of the sun when possible. You can also try wearing a cooling vest or neck wrap.
14. Set up auto-refills for prescriptions
It’s important to take your medications on time. Forgetting to take a medication or refill a prescription can have major consequences on your day-to-day life.
To solve this issue, set up auto-refills for your prescriptions with your local pharmacy. You can have the pharmacy text or call you to let you know that your prescription is ready for pick up. Many pharmacies can even mail you your prescriptions in advance.
15. Stay positive
Although there’s no cure for MS right now, newer treatments can slow down the disease. Don’t give up hope. Research is being conducted to improve treatments and reduce disease progression.
If you’re having a hard time keeping a positive outlook on life, consider meeting with a psychologist or a mental health counselor to discuss your needs.
Life after a diagnosis of MS can be overwhelming. Some days, your symptoms might prevent you from doing what you love or leave you feeling emotionally drained. While some days may be difficult, it’s still possible to live well with MS by implementing some of the changes above into your life.