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Quitting Smoking May Slow MS Progression

Quitting Smoking May Slow MS Progression

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, progressive disease that affects the nervous system and may cause problems with memory, balance and muscle control, among other functions. At first, MS tends to come and go, flare up and then get better. Eventually, though, the disease changes in nature. The flare-ups flatten out. The symptoms become constant and gradually get worse.

And while the course of MS varies from person to person, a 2015 study suggests that the shift happens faster in people who smoke.

While smoking is a known risk factor for multiple sclerosis, this study found that each year of smoking after an MS diagnosis sped up the progression of the disease by about five percent, compared to those who quit after diagnosis. In fact, the change happened eight years faster, on average, in people who never quit.

Bottom line: It’s time to stop smoking now to both reduce your risk for multiple sclerosis or delay progression if you’ve already been diagnosed with the disease. Here are some tips to help you quit smoking today:

  1. Set a quit date—and stick to it. Once your quit day arrives, throw away all of your cigarettes and change your routine by avoiding your favorite smoking spots.
  2. Tell everyone you plan to quit. It’s not easy to quit, so you will need to rely on your friends and family to support you during this time.
  3. Check your insurance coverage. More and more insurance companies are covering smoking cessation efforts, so contact your provider to see what is available to you.
  4. Talk to your doctor. Schedule a checkup with your physician, so you can talk about prescriptions and other treatments that may help you stop smoking.
  5. Beat nicotine cravings. You’re going to crave a smoke every once in a while, so arm yourself with these strategies to stay smoke-free. 

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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