When I was diagnosed with ALS in 2010, my doctor told me there was one medication available to help slow the progression of the symptoms. But there was no cure. I left her office with a prescription for Rilutek (riluzole), the first treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ALS.
But I was disappointed and frustrated that nothing else existed for newly diagnosed patients like me.
My professional career included nearly 30 years of running a hospital-based wellness center. In the nine years since my diagnosis, I have followed a simple formula for daily living based on the wellness principles I once taught to others.
In addition to taking my medication and seeing my doctor, I keep my thoughts in the here and now, exercise daily, and practice optimism. Imagine my delight when I discovered several studies validating the components of my plan.
I call my plan the “4 Ms.” Medication, mindfulness, motion, and mood. Let me explain:
- Medication: Follow your doctor’s advice, and take all prescribed medications. These will help delay and manage your ALS symptoms.
- Mindfulness: A four-month study of 197 ALS patients concluded that the practice of active mindfulness decreases anxiety, depression, and disease progression. It also predicted a higher quality of life for patients who practice mindfulness. When I notice my thoughts straying toward future worries, I stop, take a slow breath in and out, and notice my surroundings. Practicing mindfulness has helped me feel that I am in control, have more awareness, and that I am moving safely.
- Motion: Moderate exercise can be beneficial for ALS patients. A recent study in a mouse model of ALS showed that exercise lessened molecular changes. A separate study showed that it improves lifespan and eases ALS symptoms. In addition to short daily exercise routines scattered throughout my day, I build movement into simple activities.
- Mood: A study of 224 ALS patients associated higher levels of emotional well-being with a slower progression of the disease. Facing life’s curveballs can easily bring down my mood. When I notice that I’m having trouble coping with change, I ask myself what has changed, what I need to do, or who can help me.
Why don’t you talk to your doctor and see if my plan would be a good fit for you? Maybe the 4 Ms will help you continue to live well while living with ALS.
Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.