Welcome! This blog contains research & information on lifestyle, nutrition and health for those with MS, as well as continuing information on the understanding of the endothelium and heart-brain connection. This blog is informative only--all medical decisions should be discussed with your own physicians.

The posts are searchable---simply type in your topic of interest in the search box at the top left.

Almost all of MS research is initiated and funded by pharmaceutical companies. This maintains the EAE mouse model and the auto-immune paradigm of MS, and continues the 20 billion dollar a year MS treatment industry. But as we learn more about slowed blood flow, gray matter atrophy, and environmental links to MS progression and disability--all things the current drugs do not address--we're discovering more about how to help those with MS.

To learn how this journey began, read my first post from August, 2009. Be well! Joan

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Body in Motion

More research coming in on the importance of execise for people with MS.  This newest study looked at how aerobic exercise can INCREASE the size of the brain, and improve memory.

The hippocampus (literally "sea monster") got its name because of its shape--it resembles a sea horse.  It is the part of the forebrain responsible for memory forming,  mood, organizing and storing.

The hippocampus is much smaller in people who have MS, Alzheimer's, depression and in those who have had some sort of hypoxic, or low oxygen injury to the brain.  And yes, this ties in with Dr. Zamboni's discovery of restricted cerebral outflow and CCSVI.  The hippocampus needs adequate oxygen and blood flow to remain healthy.

Hippocampal atrophy seen in MS is linked to the memory deficits that affect approximately 50% of individuals with MS. Despite the prevalence of this disabling symptom, there are no effective pharmacological or behavioral treatments. 

"Aerobic exercise may be the first effective treatment for MS patients with memory problems," noted Dr. Leavitt, research scientist in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation. "Moreover, aerobic exercise has the advantages of being readily available, low cost, self-administered, and lacking in side effects." 

The study's participants were two MS patients with memory deficits who were randomized to non-aerobic (stretching) and aerobic (stationary cycling) conditions. Baseline and follow-up measurements were recorded before and after the treatment protocol of 30-minute exercise sessions 3 times per week for 3 months. Data were collected by high-resolution MRI (neuroanatomical volumes), fMRI (functional connectivity), and memory assessment. Aerobic exercise resulted in a 16.5% increase in hippocampal volume, a 53.7% increase in memory, and increased hippocampal resting-state functional connectivity. Non-aerobic exercise resulted in minimal change in hippocampal volume and no changes in memory or functional connectivity.

Please note that the researchers make some great points.  There are NO MS drugs that can increase your brain size or help with memory.  Exercise, with the consult of your physician, has no side effects, doesn't cost much and you can do it on your own schedule.
Now, here comes the cheerleading part.
Aerobic exercise simply means "with oxygen."  When we engage in aerobic exercise, we get our heart pumping!  Our blood vessels widen, our heart pumps faster and stronger, to deliver oxygen rich blood throughout our body.  This strong flow of blood creates a wonderful effect on the endothelium, called "shear stress."  The forceful flow of blood throughout vessels releases healing and vasodilating nitric oxide.  
I have spoken with Dr. Cooke and Dr. Dake from Stanford about those who have remained stenosis free in the four years since treatment for CCSVI, they have commented that the patients that remained the most aerobically active have done the best.  
If there is any way for you to take 30 minutes, 3x a week, to get your heart pumping, find it!  Suggestions on how to do this include stationary biking, elliptical machines, swimming, jogging, biking, hiking, treadmills, dancing, zumba, jazzercise, boxing, an aerobics or cardio class.   Please consult with a physician or physical therapist to learn which activity might be best suited to your activity abilities.  It may be simply impossible for you to move enough to get your heart pumping, and that's the terrible tragedy of MS progression.  But if there is any way---please try it.  
Jeff started slowly, using an elliptical machine. It wasn't pretty.  He had numbness and balance issues after his MS diagnosis, and this was about all he could handle.  But he kept at it, even with pain and fatigue.  A year later, he was back on his bike, and able to walk the dog and hike a bit.  After venoplasty, his heat intolerance disappeared, and he could work up a real sweat, so he went to mountain biking, hiking and even returned to skiing.  Last week he was showing off, and jogging up the hills on our hike.  And now his brain volume looks normal on MRI.
You can do this!!
Please, share this info in your MS community, and encourage others to join you.
A body in motion, stays in motion--
As the winter approaches and hours of sunshine diminish, fight the impulse to stay in bed or on the couch.  Get up, get moving, and feel the blood moving through your vessels.  The shear stress created heals the endothelium. You are, quite literally, healing your brain.
be well, be active,


  1. thanks, Joan. This is the truth. And it's hard for us with fatigue but the extra bonus is the hit of energy we get with the exercise. It was so hard to start ... but dang it - just show up and get going, get moving. And so quickly come the results! I think I spent a decade thinking resting was beneficial when all along I should have been exercising. This is cheap and doable and, like you said NO side effects ;)

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Lynn. Jeff's said the same thing--sometimes a fatigue wave will hit, and he finds that getting up and moving instead of napping gets him thru it. It's counterintuitive---which is why people with MS have been told for decades to rest and save their energy. But when we look at MS as a disease of slowed cerebral perfusion, lower O2 and glucose being delivered to the brain--there's nothing better than getting the heart pumping and blood flowing. Glad this info is helpful. Be well! Joan

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