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MS and preventative measures against other health problems

By Matt Cavallo

Since my diagnosis, my main health focus has been my multiple sclerosis journey. Whether it is researching the latest treatments, staying up-to-date on the latest MS news and breakthroughs, or participating in my disease management by making sure I follow all my neurologist’s orders, MS is my main focus. What I realized over the past year is that sometimes I am so focused on MS that I turn a blind eye to all other health concerns. This article will discuss the lessons I have learned during the past year and how I plan on being more active in taking preventative measures to stay ahead of other potential health problems. 

For those of you who read my articles each month, you know I have struggled with acid reflux during the past year. If you haven’t read the articles, here is a brief summary. Last winter, I had intractable hiccups that lasted for more than two weeks straight. My neurologist thought it might be MS- or neurological-related, so he ordered tests to rule out other neurological conditions, such as neuromyelitis optica

Finally, I saw a gastrointestinal doctor and was diagnosed with acid reflux. My GI doctor believed my acid reflux could be related to my weight, so I went on a medical weight-loss journey and to date, I have lost 45 pounds, and my acid reflux is under control. The lesson I learned from this experience is that symptoms and health issues are not always related to my MS.

In many ways, this experience was a wake-up call. I have had MS for 17 years and it is generally well-controlled with disease-modifying therapies. Because I have dedicated all of my focus on managing my MS, I realized I may have let other areas of my health slip. Here are some tips below can help patients like myself be more active in addressing other preventable health concerns.

Five tips for preventing other health concerns

1. Annual physicals with primary care physician
  • Annual physicals and wellness checks look for potential health concerns, as well as establish a baseline of your current health status.

2. Follow through on preventative recommendations from your primary care physician including labs, tests, and other recommendations
  • I recently learned I was at the age where I need a colonoscopy. While it may not be the most comfortable procedure, the doctors remove any suspicious polyps during the test, which helps with colon cancer prevention.

3. Ask your primary care physician for referrals for other preventative screenings
  • For example, a referral to a dermatologist for a skin check can help identify any troubling spots on the skin.

4. Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle
  • Losing the extra weight not only helped with my acid reflux, but it also helped with my hip bursitis, walking, and overall pain and fatigue.
  • If you struggle with weight loss, talk to your primary care physician about diet options.
  • I went on a medical weight loss program and it made all the difference.

5. Ask for help
  • The hardest thing to do is to ask for help.
  • If you cannot talk to your doctor about problems in the bathroom, bedroom, or any other area of life, then you do not have the right doctor. You should feel comfortable talking to your doctors about any concern you have.
  • If you are struggling with mental health, it is important to talk to your doctor, as well.
  • Your primary care physician should be a safe space where you can address all your concerns and most importantly to ask for help.