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Five things newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis patients should know

March is National MS Education and Awareness Month.
A multiple sclerosis diagnosis can be a scary, life altering event—but University of Minnesota Health Neurologist Gary Beaver, DO, knows there are plenty of resources available for newly diagnosed patients who are looking for help.
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A multiple sclerosis diagnosis can be a scary, life altering event—but there are plenty of resources available for newly diagnosed patients who are looking for answers or help.

That’s the message Neurologist Gary Beaver, DO, shares with the men and women he sees through the University of Minnesota Health Multiple Sclerosis program. Beaver, the medical director of the program, ensures that patients are equipped with the best resources, treatment plans and information possible to help manage their multiple sclerosis.

To mark National MS Education and Awareness Month in March, we’ve asked Beaver to share five insights and tips for newly diagnosed MS patients.

MS is a treatable disease.

Multiple Sclerosis is a very treatable disease. That’s the first—and arguably most important—point that Beaver wants newly diagnosed patients to understand. There are a host of treatment options available for patients.

“It can have a minimal impact on their lives,” Beaver said, “There’s been a dramatic change over the last 15 to 20 years compared to when we had only one treatment in 1993.”

Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
One important—but often overlooked—aspect of multiple sclerosis disease management is the impact of a healthy diet and exercise. “Over the years, I’ve felt that people who not only follow through on the treatments that we recommend but also go out of the way to take care of themselves seem to do better,” Beaver said. 

Beaver cautions patients to be wary of fad diets marketed to aid with the treatment of multiple sclerosis, because no MS diet has been proven effective. Instead, he recommends eating healthy and exercising regularly while trying to minimize consumption of processed food and fast food.

Remember that resources are available.

Newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis patients are not alone in their treatment, Beaver said. University of Minnesota Health offers a wealth of resources through its multiple sclerosis program, which employs specialists at three locations in the Twin Cities region. 

“We have everything MS patients need to effectively manage their disease,” Beaver said. Patients can also call the program and talk with a staff member about their symptoms. Outside of the University of Minnesota Health system, Beaver said the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society also serves as an excellent resource for patients.

Be comfortable with your treatment team.
To make sure you’re properly equipped for your multiple sclerosis, it’s important to develop a comfortable relationship with your physician and care team, Beaver said.

Because patients build a lifelong relationship with their care team, they need to work effective with their providers, follow the prescribed treatment approach and ask questions at every step of the way, Beaver said. 

“We take a team approach between the patient, the physician and our nurses so we can identify the problems are and get to the root cause of any symptoms,” he said.

Don’t let it control your life
Don’t let the disease control your life. Multiple sclerosis patients often fear the perceived stigma of the disease and think it can destroy their lives, Beaver said. 

People living with MS should look at it as a treatable medical conditions and not as a debilitating, untreatable condition.

“Hypertensive patients have to take their medication, diabetics have to use their insulin — this isn't any different. MS is disease that has to be controlled. If you don’t control it, it will cause you problems down the line, just like other diseases,” Beaver said.

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