Living with lupus: 9 ways to enhance your life

We’ve seen the downturn that lupus can take on one’s life. From missed tour dates to multiple hospitalizations, big names like Toni Braxton, Nick Cannon, and Trick Daddy, have disclosed their complicated trials and tribulations with lupus. Bringing the disease to light has done momentous things in the African American community and has open the floodgates for discussion.

However, many newly diagnosed lupus patients still wonder: Will I still be able to live a long and good life with lupus?

The answer is yes. According to Everyday Health, there are nine ways to improve your day-to-day life living with lupus. Taking key steps to prevent lupus flares is at the base of living a healthier and better life with lupus. A lifestyle that includes exercise, diet, rest and support will help manage the daily challenges of the chronic yet unpredictable disease:

Reduce Lupus Flares

First things first, what is a flare? The sudden worsening of lupus symptoms is called a flare. “Stress can increase the chance of having a lupus flare and increase lupus pain when symptoms are active, so a low-stress lifestyle is best,” says Olivia Ghaw, MD, assistant professor of rheumatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

Try identifying all sources of stress in your life, then ask for help. When you have symptoms that constraint your movements like pain, stiffness and fatigue, reducing stress can help alleviate that pain. Taking time for yourself and finding activities that help you to relax and relieve stress is a good place to start.

“Regular exercise is important for people with lupus in order to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity has been linked to increased inflammation, so exercise is good for joint health and reducing joint pain and it doesn’t have to be extreme.” Try avoiding high-impact exercises and incorporate a regular program of low-impact exercises. Take up activities like swimming or walking that can help reduce stress while improving your strength, movement and help reduce your risk for osteoporosis and heart disease.

A Heart-Healthy Diet

A diet centered around fruits, vegetables and whole grains is best. For protein, eat fish and poultry instead of red meats. Also, make sure you get plenty of calcium for bone and joint health. If fluid retention or high blood pressure are a problem for you, reduce your salt intake. “While there’s no such thing as a lupus diet, there’s a strong link between lupus and heart disease, so a heart-healthy diet is essential,” Ghaw says.

Get Enough Sleep

What many don’t consider enough is that one of the most troublesome lupus symptoms is fatigue. Affecting as many as 80 percent of people with the condition, it can impact one’s lifestyle incredibly. “Lack of sleep can contribute to fatigue, and it’s also been linked to increased pain sensitivity,” Ghaw says.

Lupus-related fatigue has also been linked to a lack of exercise. Try getting at least seven hours of sleep every night and allow time for rest during the day. You might even want to take short naps whenever possible. However, try not to spend too much time in bed. Once you’ve slept a healthy number of hours, get up and get moving.

Limit Time in the Sun

Two-thirds of people with lupus have increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light. “Sun levels are low,” Ghaw says. Studies have shown that Vitamin D does have an effect on lupus patients. Many showed that a decrease in Vitamin D levels was associated with an increase in lupus symptoms.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking increases the risk of hardening of the arteries, called atherosclerosis, and people with lupus are already at a higher risk than people without lupus. “Smoking has been linked to increased inflammation, which is especially bad if you have lupus. Smoking is also linked to increased [risk of] heart disease and cancer, which is bad for everybody,” Ghaw says. Smoking has also been linked to lupus flares and worsening of lupus symptoms.

Alcohol can interfere with some drugs used to treat lupus, such as methotrexate. It is also known that your medications may be less effective if you drink alcohol. If you’re taking an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, the risk of stomach upset and internal bleeding may increase with the use of alcohol.

Get support

Last, but certainly not least. Seek support. “Lupus symptoms can include anxiety and depression, which isn’t surprising for a chronic and unpredictable disease. Many people with lupus find that support from family, friends, or a support group helps them cope with lupus symptoms and flares,” Ghaw says.

If you have lupus it’s imperative that you take your health seriously. Taking an active role in controlling the disease will allow you to learn more about your personal triggers and symptoms, and will allow you to catch flares early-on. Managing a disease like lupus may be initially difficult, but there are many options and support available to you. Ask your doctor which route is best for you.

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