Readers of this blog have already learned about the importance of monitoring their gray matter. Volume loss, or the shrinking of tissue, is also referred to as atrophy and neurodegeneration. I explain this process in more depth here: link The MRI measurement of atrophy has been proven to be more indicative of MS progression, when compared to white matter lesions. (The fact that we still use a seventy year old mouse model to measure white matter lesions for MS drug efficacy boggles the mind.) This paper advises that MS specialists look at other MRI markers to understand how treatments might be impacting loss of tissue and MS progression.
A consortium of international MS experts published this review earlier in the year, right before COVID, and I missed it. It was not sponsored by any specific drug company. The MAGNIMS study group (Magnetic Resonance in Imaging in MS) was comprised of MS experts from seven countries. I highly recommend discussing this research with your doctor, to make sure you understand how your own gray matter is doing.
link to MAGNIMS study in Nature
The authors discuss lifestyle factors which impact brain volume. I like to call these factors "the things we can change." There are things we can do today to maintain our gray matter. The heart brain connection is real, and vascular health impacts our brains.
Many lifestyle factors, including physical activity124, influence estimates of brain volume. A higher level of alcohol intake has been associated with a higher rate of brain atrophy over a 6-year period115 and with a specific pattern of regional involvement of the white matter and grey matter125. A similar effect has been described for cigarette smoking and substance abuse (for example, marijuana use)115,126. Many systemic conditions, such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, hypertension, obesity and vascular conditions can also accelerate brain atrophy115,127,128.
Please notice the mention of vascular conditions. All of this is new.
I've written about how Jeff's gray matter atrophy was reversed thanks to vascular and lifestyle intervention. This post is from 2018 Celebration! Jeff's good health continues in 2020, and he is still hiking, biking, composing, and active. He's also down to his high school track star weight (178!) and has built up muscle tone. He remains my inspiration. Our goal, God willing, is to stay healthy and active, and live to see the end of this pandemic. We work on managing the things we can change--by eating whole foods, moving every day, getting sunshine, staying connected to family, praying, meditating, making music, laughing, helping others, and letting go of the factors beyond our control. I've mentioned the serenity prayer before. link Written in the trying 1930s by Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian, it is a reminder to take each day at a time, especially as we face difficult times.
Here is to getting through this- with renewed health-- physically, emotionally, spiritually.
with love from smokey California,