Preventative Healthcare in Multiple Sclerosis: 2018 Scholarship Shortlist (AB)

Piper Shamanski

University of Lethbridge – Bachelor of Science Neuroscience – 2022

Preventative healthcare provides patients and their families an opportunity to pursue a precautionary form of treatment. I aspire to use this technique within my own practice, optimistically medical school, to help families who specifically deal with neurological diseases and disorders. Collectively taken, the research scientists and medical teams have internationally discovered is incredibly advanced from where we once were. However, I desire to take it further. Preventative medicine has not been fully adapted to accommodate those struggling with certain neurological
disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, or even Huntington’s disease. For the purpose of this essay, I will be specifically referencing Multiple Sclerosis preventative healthcare treatments and research. In my future, wherever my education leads me, I aspire to embrace aspects of preventative healthcare: diet, exercise, and emotional wellness to further promote the overall health and lifestyle of my patients.

As demonstrated in Copeman’s programs, research has proven that altering an individual’s diet is a contributing factor to overall health. However, Orhun Kantarci, M.D. from the Mayo Clinic stated that “there is no evidence that a specific diet can prevent, treat, or cure multiple sclerosis(1).” Kantarci continues, supporting the usage of supplements, specifically omega-3; it aids visual functions and neural development. As MS is an autoimmune disease, the prevention of further attacks on myelin is crucial to ensure effective communications between brain and body. Symptoms are dependent on the amount of damage the myelin sheath has taken; it is apparent that in order to prevent symptoms further damage, the stoppage of myelin destruction is upmost importance. Although necessarily altering an individual’s diet will not prevent multiple sclerosis, it is a way to prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. This ultimately will improve the patient’s overall health and mood, allowing them to focus on improving their neurological condition. In addition to taking supplements such as omega-3, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12, which specifically aid individuals with MS, maintaining a healthy diet is important in preserving overall health.

Historically, it was once feared that physical activity for those diagnosed with MS would worsen their symptoms.  Lack of mobility is common within multiple sclerosis patients, and when partnered with nerve pain and fatigue, it is unrealistic in certain cases to maintain exercising. Overheating is also a danger as many people report worsened symptoms during strenuous activities. Contradictory, lack of exercise can lead to increased fatigue and weakness. Contemporary research has provided insight to the debate on exercise, shifting towards increased physical activity. Dr. Petajan from the University of Utah performed a trial on the effect of aerobic exercise in patients with MS versus those who limited themselves to no physical activity. It was proven that those who exercised experienced reduced depression and anger, fatigue, and improved quality of life(2). Exercise is now viewed as an essential part of patient care and is effective in symptom prevention. Physical activity is proven to enhance cognitive function and overall brain health. Several clinical trials have linked physical activity to stronger brain health, not just in reference to those with multiple sclerosis, but the general public. A study(3) connected aerobic fitness to the prevention of tissue degeneration. Individuals with increased aerobic exercise acquired less degenerated tissue; they also demonstrated increased performance when attempting cognitive tasks. Simple exercising such as walking has even been attributed to aided to the decrease in MS symptoms: brain lesions, demyelinating syndrome, and relapse rate. Trials including youth demonstrated the importance of physical activity and the protection of their myelin from a young age. Their chances of relapsing became relatively smaller, and their decreased their chance of on setting detrimental symptoms as they grew older. Exercise overall improves physical and mental performance not just in multiple sclerosis cases, but again within the general population.

Adapting diet and exercising contributes to one’s overall health, this including mental health and physically brain health. Many individuals suffering from MS face the reality of possibly becoming wheelchair confined, or loss of control over their body as the degeneration of their muscle control and strength progresses. The thought of loss of muscular control can be detrimental to emotional well-being of individuals. Often this burdens people, leading patients to feel helpless, inducing feelings of depression and anger. Patients must have access to mental health professionals and facilities with the capabilities to support them. Physical activity can also aid better moods, reducing depression. It is crucial to provide acceptable and reliable support systems for patients, as treatment is not just about physical aspects, however a combination of both mental and physical.

Instead of attempting to stop deterioration of myelin sheath, followed by attempts to regenerate the tissue, it would be strategic to prevent the damage in the first place. Although trials and research have not progressed to achieve the goal of complete prevention or eradication, there are ways to prevent the further spread of symptoms. Through diet and exercise, brain and psychological health, as well as the aid of physicians, multiple sclerosis treatment implemented with ease for those inflicted. I strive to achieve and promote the treatment that Copeman provides to those within Canada. My mother struggles specifically with MS, and I aspire to direct my passion and knowledge to help those affected by multiple sclerosis-like her. Disease prevention intertwined within multiple sclerosis cases will aid future generations in optimistically preventing the disease entirely, and adequately pave the pathways for future discoveries.

 

1 https://www.mayoclinic.org/multiple-sclerosis-diet/expert-answers/faq-20057953

2 https://mssociety.ca/hot-topics/exercise-and-physical-activity

3 Prakash RS, Snook EM, Motl RW, Kramer AF. Aerobic fitness is associated with gray matter volume and white matter integrity in multiple sclerosis. Brain Res. 2010;1341:41-51.