Know all you can about brain lesions in white and grey matter
Lesions can happen in both white matter and grey matter in the brain. They interfere with the brain’s ability to communicate from one part of the brain to another, and from the brain to the rest of the body These communication breakdowns, caused by lesions, can lead to MS symptoms and relapses.
Grey matter lesions were recently identified as being closely associated with cognitive and physical changes related to MS. Cognitive changes caused by MS may include worsening of memory, difficulty concentrating, or trouble thinking of the right word. Be sure to ask your neurologist about lesions that occur in both areas.
Learn what research shows about decreasing brain matter
As we age, we all lose brain matter (both white and grey) naturally. For people with MS, this decrease in brain matter (also called brain volume loss) can happen more quickly.
Research now shows that a decrease in the volume of grey matter caused by MS is a strong predictor of long-term physical disability and cognitive issues. Make sure that decreases in brain matter (or brain volume loss) is part of your next discussion with your neurologist.
Understand your brain’s neurological reserve
When brain lesions occur, the affected area may no longer function properly. However, other areas can step in and perform the tasks that part of the brain no longer can. This amazing ability to adapt is called “neurological reserve,” and it can keep you from experiencing MS symptoms early on in the disease.
Neurological reserve can decrease as brain lesions occur. Everyday lifestyle choices can help you maintain neurological reserve longer.
Don’t wait until you’re experiencing symptoms to make healthy changes that can help.
Make lifestyle changes and manage chronic conditions
Making healthy changes to your lifestyle can help keep your brain healthy, too. A healthier brain can help maximize neurological reserve.
Also, it’s important to manage other chronic conditions you may have (in addition to MS). If left unmanaged, chronic conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, depression, diabetes, and chronic lung disease) can actually lead to more relapses and a quicker progression of physical disability. Talk to your doctor to make sure you’re doing all you can.