In the 45 years from 1955 to 2000, the female-to-male ration of multiple sclerosis incidence has changed from about 1.4 to 2.3. This means that for every 10 males who were diagnosed with MS in 1955, 14 females were diagnosed with the disease. By 2000, it was 23 women for every 10 men who were diagnosed. The exact reason why the incidence of multiple sclerosis (MS) has increased among women in comparison to men is unclear but it is important for women who may have one or more risk factors to be more aware of the disease and its early symptoms.
High Risk MS Profile
So how high is your MS risk? Here are some facts to point – your multiple sclerosis risk is higher if you are or have:
- Between the age of 15 and 60 years.
- A parent or sibling with MS.
- Of Northern European, Sardinian, Palestinian or Parsi heritage.
- Living in the northern United States, southern Canada, southeastern Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
- Been infected with certain viruses like the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
- Been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), thyroid disease or related autoimmune conditions.
- A cigarette smoker.
However, it is important to remember that having one or more risk factors does not mean that you are guaranteed to develop multiple sclerosis. Similarly you can develop multiple sclerosis even if you are not within a high risk group.
Reducing Your Multiple Sclerosis Risk
The problem with multiple sclerosis risk factor is that almost all are non-modifiable. This means that you cannot change the risk factor, as compared to modifiable risk factors which can be altered with concerted effort. Stopping cigarette smoking is obviously beneficial to some degree but it is not as a high a risk factor as others mentioned above. However, it is not all bad news if you are concerned about multiple sclerosis and want to take some steps to prevent it, or at least delay the onset.
Some studies have suggested that people with a higher blood level of vitamin D are at a lower risk of multiple sclerosis. Therefore vitamin D supplementation could be helpful but it should first be discussed with a doctor. Since vitamin D in the human body is largely derived from sunlight exposure, this could be a consideration for multiple sclerosis management. However, its has been found that high temperatures like a hot meal or hot bath can exacerbate MS symptoms. Similarly sunlight exposure can be a aggravating factor to some degree due to a rise in surface temperature.
These factors should not detract from the fact that a healthy diet and lifestyle can be beneficial for most conditions, if not in the prevention then at least in the severity and progression. In these cases it is more often than not a matter of common sense than hard and fast medical guidelines or scientific evidence. Eat balanced meals, exercise about 3 to 5 times a week and try to maintain a healthy body weight. Remember that stress management is an important factor in healthy living, even if it has not been directly linked to multiple sclerosis.