Lifestyle factors and MS
Can taking control of lifestyle factors change the way MS impacts your body?
There is certainly growing evidence that suggests yes, lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical activity and pre-existing health conditions can affect the progression of MS. This is a difficult area of study as there are so many variables to be considered in order to determine an exact answer.
Professor George Jelinek and his team at the University of Melbourne recently conducted a study on the association of lifestyle factors with MS disability levels. This project involved the surveying of 2,469 people with MS from 57 different countries. Different types of surveys and questionnaires were used to assess various lifestyle and other factors such as age, gender, smoking, alcohol usage, diet and medication. It was found that the population analysed had an unusually healthy lifestyle with higher than average scores for diet, low levels of smoking and moderately active.
Modifiable risk factors such as better diet, exercise and not smoking were associated with lower levels of disability. People who had used disease modifying drugs in the preceding 12 months or more were also significantly more likely to be in the low level of disease category.
Despite this study indicating some very interesting associations, it is only a snapshot of healthy behaviours and disability levels at a single point in time. Further studies are required to draw stronger links and strengthen the research.
Diet and lifestyle factors are a huge area of interest for the MS community and for MS Research Australia. It is exciting to note that our sister organisation in the USA, the National MS Society has announced further funding for a clinical trial of the swank and Wahls diets—which will look at the impact of these diets on fatigue in MS. These studies are crucial to empower people suffering from MS to know that they can contribute to a brighter future without MS, and that they are making a difference to their lives and everyone who suffers from MS. We look forward to bringing you more updates on studies in these areas.