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Early Cognitive Loss in Relapsing MS - Five Steps to Improving Your Brain Function

November 29, 2011 | Comments: 0 | Views: 144

Often it is the decrease in verbal fluency, the ability to easily access the words you need when you are speaking (or writing), that sends up the first red flag, but cognitive loss in Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis can translate to anything from tying your shoelaces to remembering that the milk belongs in the refrigerator. It's scary, it's frustrating and it's improvable. Working with your neurologist and other therapeutic professionals as well as performing a self-assessment and daily exercises are the first steps to beating early cognitive loss when you live with Multiple Sclerosis.

Step One

Do a self-audit. MS is commonly accepted to be an auto-immune disease where the body attacks the myelin sheath, or protective, fatty covering, of the central nervous system. Damage occurs once the myelin has been attacked and forms a scar on the nerve pathway. It is the presence of this scar that interrupts the nerve impulses throughout the body.

Watch yourself for three days and write down the difficulties you experience as it relates to searching for words, speed in recognizing patterns, focusing your attention and your short-term memory. Don't judge yourself, this is an exercise in observation. This activity will allow you to pinpoint specific symptoms that you may not have noticed before and never shared with your doctor.

Step Two

Have a frank discussion with your neurologist about the cognitive problems you are experiencing and get a referral to a cognitive specialist for a clinical evaluation. This will profit you on three fronts:

1) You will have a medical record and assessment of the scope of loss you may be experiencing; 2) Next steps will be suggested by a professional for you to follow; and3) You will be able to use the assessment as a roadmap as you begin to personally tackle your cognitive slips on a daily basis.

Step Three

Create a cognitive exercise program for yourself. How do you do this? If you know that you are having trouble remembering where things belong in your home, create a personalized game for remembering. Once a day write down the places that particular objects belong within a room (milk in the refrigerator, for example) on sticky notes and attach the note to each item. Then take the items out of their rightful places and place them on a table or counter in that room. Try to return each item to its rightful place without looking at the tag.

This will engage you visually, kinesthetically and build your confidence. Words just on the tip of your tongue? This happens to nearly everyone, but neurologists include this phenomenon as evidence of cognitive problems when it occurs frequently and impacts your daily life. There are many board games, computer word games, computation puzzles and websites specifically designed to build cognitive skills for "Tip of the Tongue" and other cognitive lapses. Sites like Lumosity work on the theory of neuroplasticity - the ability of the brain to respond and repair itself due to environmental stimuli - and have been created to build specific skills like brain flexibility, recall, speed, attention, etc. and allow you to work at your own pace and track your progress online.

As a writer with MS, I constantly work at increasing my vocabulary. Regularly learning and reinforcing the knowledge of new words, studying the origin of those words and even translations of those words into other languages all can build up your brain function.

Step Four

Enlist a cheerleader. You may not be ready for your spouse to be your personal coach on this, but they can be a regular supporter and cheerleader. Whether you choose your spouse, child, neighbor or a cyber friend, let the person know how important it is to you to have someone who will be willing to do three specific things:

1) Remind you to keep up your new exercise program; 2) Ask you to talk about how you feel it is going; and 3) Encourage you to keep up the good work.

Your designated cheerleader does not need to make this the main topic of all of their conversations with you, but they need to be able to commit having this pep talk with you at least once a week.

Step Five

If professional cognitive therapy sessions are recommended by your neurologist, do them! Your brain and all of your neurons and synapses need constant flexing. This is the nuts and bolts behind neuroplasticity. The human brain can adapt and build and change. As a person who is diagnosed with MS, your job is to do everything in your power to rewire and jump start your brain and neuronal function. Making sure that you are feeding your brain with the appropriate whole foods, minerals, vitamins and other supplements will go a long way in your recovery and stabilization of MS symptoms. Talk with your neurologist about some of the exercises that you are doing on your own. She may have a few tricks up her sleeve to enhance your success.

I keep word puzzles, Suduko games and a crochet project with me at all times. Who knows, one day I may be able to work up to using two knitting needles! I laugh at myself for forgetting words in mid-sentence, realizing that it is the MS and I'm not just "getting older". After two years of being unable to even tie my sneakers or button my shirt, I realize that with MS it's a lot more than just apparent cognitive loss that we must deal with -- it's motor skills, numbness, spasticity, and pain. We need to remember that taking small steps to rebuild our lives is the way to go. That's what recovery means. It is an act of creation, and being committed to a plan to follow can be the first step to your success.

Karen Joyce Williams is a writer, nonprofit consultant, cultural historian and antique dealer who probably spends way too much time with objects hundreds of years older than she is. She also has MS and works daily on staying healthy. She has written over 200 articles on such far flung subjects as Curbing for Antiques, Vintage Living, Alternative Multiple Sclerosis Therapies, Grant & Proposal Writing, Homeschooling and Healthy Traveling to Offbeat Lands.

Source: EzineArticles
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Cognitive Loss


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Karen Joyce Williams

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