How to Decrease Your Risk of Developing MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
The cause of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is unknown. This means that there is currently no known way to definitively prevent the disease. However, research has identified a number of risk factors strongly associated with MS. By doing your best to control and reduce these risk factors, you will increase your chances of avoiding the disease. Focus on living a healthy lifestyle, avoiding certain viruses, and getting plenty of vitamin D. You can also examine your family history and genetic factors for a more precise sense of your MS risk.
Maintaining Your Health to Reduce MS Risk
Eat foods that contain Vitamin D and spend time in the sun.Consume the recommended intake of dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) to get enough vitamin D. You’ll also need to spend time in sunlight each day so that your body can produce vitamin D. Some people also take Vitamin D supplements to ensure that they get enough. Getting plenty of vitamin D won’t prevent MS, but there does seem to be a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and a higher occurrence of the disease. This means vitamin D may at least reduce your risk.
- The link between where you live and your MS risk level also indicates the importance of vitamin D. The disease is less common in warm areas near the equator that get lots of sun, which helps people produce vitamin D.
- If you take Vitamin D supplements, get your Vitamin D level checked regularly to ensure that you’re taking appropriate doses and keeping it in the normal range. Taking large doses of Vitamin D when you don’t need to can cause other health-related issues.
Move to a warm climate, if you are younger.Rates of MS are higher among people who live in temperate climates, like those in Canada, much of the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe. MS rates drop in regions located closer to the equator. Studies suggest that if you are born in a high-risk area, but move to a low-risk one before age 15, you will have a lower risk level later in life.
- This research suggests that some environmental factor that emerges before puberty makes it more likely for someone to get MS.
Stop smoking, if you do.Ask your doctor about medications or programs that can help you quit, if this is something you struggle with. While MS is not caused by smoking, there is a strong relationship between the two. Quitting smoking will cut your chances of getting MS.
Ask your doctor about your gut biome health.Keep the levels of certain bacteria in your digestive system in balance, and you may just reduce your risk of getting MS. Cutting edge research indicates that a few types of gut bacteria are deficient in people with MS, but more present in healthy individuals. Your doctor can help you develop a dietary plan that accounts for your overall health and will keep your gut biome in order.
- Your doctor may suggest you take certain pre-biotic or probiotic supplements, or adjust your eating habits in order to promote a healthy gut biome.
Eat a balanced diet.A high intake of saturated fat or fish oil is being studied as potentially related to the onset of MS. While there isn’t currently enough evidence to strongly suggest that these are risk factors, your best bet is maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.
- Eat a diet that includes properly portioned lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
Avoiding Viruses Potentially Linked to MS
Don't get mono.Researchers are exploring a potential link between the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis (mono), and MS. Mono is transmitted in saliva. You can avoid this virus by not kissing or sharing drinks, food, or toothbrushes with people who may be infected.
Avoid contacting Human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6).Washing your hands frequently is the best way to avoid getting this virus, which research shows may be a risk factor of MS. The disease often appears among children as the Roseola rash, so it's especially important to teach children good hygiene.
Prevent pneumonia.The virus Chlamydia pneumonia, which is also potentially linked to MS, can best be prevented through good hygiene. This means covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands, and using hand sanitizer.
Get the MMR vaccine.Make sure you have been given the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is often administered in childhood as a way to prevent these diseases. Research is exploring a potential link between the measles virus and MS, so getting vaccinated may reduce your risk of contracting the disease.
Determining Significant Risk Factors
Look at your family history of MS.Researchers believe that genetics play a role in the development of MS. If you have a close relative (such as a parent or sibling) with MS, you are more likely to get the disease. However, having a family member with MS does not mean that you will inherit it.
Factor in demographics when determining your MS risk.Multiple sclerosis occurrence rates vary depending on age, gender, and race. This knowledge won’t help you prevent the disease, but it can help you become more aware of your risk of contracting MS.
- Women are 2-3 times more likely to get MS than men.
- The onset of MS can happen at any age, but it is most common among people between 20 and 50.
- Multiple sclerosis is most common of among Caucasians of northern European descent. It is least common among people with Asian, African, and Native American ancestry.
Talk to your doctor if you have other major diseases.MS is autoimmune disorder, but it is linked to other conditions, including thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you have one of these conditions, talk to your doctor about whether or not they think they may impact your risk of contracting MS.
- Don’t become pregnant in order to prevent MS. Many people who have MS find that their symptoms go away or reduce when they are pregnant. However, this does not mean that becoming pregnant will prevent someone who does not have MS from getting it.
- Some factors were originally thought to greatly increase your risk of getting MS but have been disproven. Despite what you might hear from non-authoritative sources, researchers no longer consider these to be risk factors of MS: living with a dog, having allergies, consuming high levels of heavy metals (accidentally, or from eating fish), physical trauma, aspartame consumption.
- While taking hygienic precautions, such as washing your hands regularly, should help keep you from contracting MS-related viruses, they aren’t 100% preventable.
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