How to keep your brain healthy while living with MS
Having a healthy brain that functions well is important for people with MS. Here are some positive steps you can take to keep your brain as healthy as possible, whatever your MS diagnosis.
Cigarette smoking is associated with decreased brain volume in people with MS, as well as with higher relapse rates, increased disability progression, and more cognitive problems compared with not smoking. It's important to get help to stop smoking as soon as possible. Resources such as Quit are a great place to start.
Higher levels of aerobic fitness are associated with faster information processing and preserved brain tissue volume. Being as active as possible can help to preserve brain health in people with MS. Find out more about the recommended exercise guidelines for people living with MS in our guide, Adpating Your Lifestyle: A Guide for People with MS.
Following the Australian Dietary Guidelines is recommended for all people living with or without MS. This will ensure you are getting an abundance of nutrients in your diet, and will contribute to keeping your brain healthy.
Keep your weight under control
Obesity is associated with higher numbers of MS lesions (areas of intensive damage), and with disability progression. Maintaining a healthy weight by staying active and eating healthy is important.
Look after stress and mood
Managing stress and mood changes are important for brain health for people living with MS as these factors can affect brain function and increase fatigue for people with MS. Ways to manage these may include taking walks outside, connecting with friends or family, or seeking professional help when needed.
Keep your mind active
Education, reading, hobbies and artistic or creative pastimes help to protect against cognitive problems (thinking and memory) in MS. Getting early help and intervention with any cognition problems is vital.
Maintain good sleep hygiene
Sleep can impact many MS symptoms, including cognition, depression, and fatigue. Ensuring you are maintaining healthy sleep habits is vital in looking after your brain health.
Stay on top of your general health
Staying on top of all the things above will contribute to not only your brain health, but your overall health and wellbeing. Alongside these, it's important to look after things like blood pressure and cholesterol, have regular checkups including skin checks, pap smears or prostate checks, and ensure you're taking your medication as prescribed by your health professional.
How to Keep Your Brain Healthy with Dr Therese Burke
Resources for Brain Health:
- Brain Health: A Guide for People with MS
- Brain Health: Time Matters in MS (Brain Health Report)
- Brain health resources for people living with MS
- Downloadable resources on Healthy Living from MSIF
- MS and Cognition