How to Maintain and Why You Need a Healthy Lifestyle

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How to maintain — and why you need — a healthy lifestyle when you're coping with multiple sclerosis. By Connie Brichford
Medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
Exercise at least two to three times a week, eat a well-balanced diet, and get plenty of good, quality sleep. That advice is true for everyone — but it is particularly important for people living with MS. Tanuja Chitnis, MD, assistant professor of neurology and director of the Partners Pediatric MS Center at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, recommends that all people living with MS adopt a healthier lifestyle. Multiple sclerosis, she explains, is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system — the part of our bodies intended to ward off outside assaults such as infection by bacteria — begins to attack its own tissues. A healthy lifestyle is key to helping the immune system function in an optimal way. Living with MS: Tips for Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle

Following the general good-health guidelines outlined below can help people living with MS not only to manage their multiple sclerosis more successfully, but also to live a better life overall. Key points include the following: Protect yourself against infection. Because infections can trigger flares of MS symptoms, it's a good idea to take measures to make yourself less susceptible to wayward germs. To begin, minimize time spent with people who are sick. If you work with the public or ride public transportation, washing your hands frequently will help minimize the number of potentially harmful substances that you are exposed to. Take extra care of yourself during cold and flu season and talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated against common infections, such as influenza (the flu). Finally, UTIs, or urinary tract (bladder) infections, can also trigger MS flares, according to Chitnis. A study by researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute found that cranberry juice has properties that help prevent bacteria from...
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