You suspected something was wrong, because activities you took for granted are no longer available to you. You may walk unsteadily, like being drunk all the time. You may not be able to run or ride a bicycle as you did in your youth. A short exercise time in your favorite gym or chores on a warm day outside leave you gasping for breath, and wanting to curl up and sleep the rest of the day away. All of these realities are typical for anyone coping with MS.
Much of this has to do with your core temperature. As it rises with exercise or on a hot day in the sun, all of the above symptoms are exacerbated. Keeping cooler is a not so secret strategy. Taking a break from your outdoor activities is a must. Get in the shade to cool off. Take a refreshing drink to rehydrate any moisture you lost through perspiration. Working on that suntan is probably not going to help you cope.
Innovative ways have been developed to help keep your temperature down this summer. Scarves, vests, and even full jackets have been designed to be immersed in or filled with water. These are then refrigerated to a cold temperature. When worn, they help you manage your temperature and do more outside, like mow the lawn, weed or plant a garden, hang up clothes on a line for drying, hike to your favorite lake or picnic spot, put up or paint a fence line, etc. When it’s time because the water has warmed up too much, take a break, and put these items back in refrigeration before your next foray outside. Do your necessary outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon, when temperatures outside are lower.
Your weight may become a problem. You are not as active as you were before, and do not need the same caloric intake. You don’t need to diet. Simply cut back on your portions. Eat healthier. Keep snacks to the 100 calorie variety. Avoid chips and salty snack foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables as snacks. A gym membership might have been a good thing before your diagnosis, but you don’t want to break into a sweat anymore. A more moderate regimen is appropriate. Keep your body toned, but don’t work out with the intention of increasing muscle mass. New muscles require healthy nerve tissue to function for you, and your body is now destroying nerve tissues because of your MS.
Walk more for moderate exercise. Climb stairs instead of riding the elevator. Eat sensibly. Take prescribed medications faithfully and on time. Avoid prolonged sun exposure and the hottest part of the day. Use refrigerated clothing when appropriate to keep your core temperature lower. Take frequent breaks when you do tiring chores or work outside. Keep hydrated. If you have a plan and stick to it, MS will simply be an unfortunate inconvenience, and not a problem.
References: National Multiple Sclerosis Society Web site. http://www.nationalmssociety,org, Accessed May 4, 2010.