Did you know that May is Lupus Awareness Month? If this is news to you, then we highly recommend taking a look at this infographic to learn more about this important event. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease which affects nearly 2 million people here in the U.S. This week, we’d like to discuss some of the ways that lupus patients can manage their symptoms and live better with their illness.
Managing Stress to Reduce Risk of Flare-Ups
A flare-up is when your symptoms suddenly become much worse. Clinical trials have shown that stress can increase your risk of lupus flare-ups. Ask any expert and they will recommend learning how to effectively manage your stress in daily life. If you feel like you’re experiencing more stress in your life, a good first step is identifying all of these stressors.
Here are some recommendations to help you get started:
- Ask for help when your symptoms make it harder to complete certain daily tasks
- Take more time during the week for yourself
- Identify activities that will help you relax and relieve stress
Get More Exercise
Lupus can significantly impact the joints of the body and regular exercise is one of best ways to help maintain healthier joints in the long run– similar to many forms of arthritis. Being overweight can also exacerbate your inflammation, so getting exercise will help you maintain a healthier weight.
An appropriate exercise routine for lupus should incorporate low-impact routines like walking or aquatic aerobics. Not only will these help improve your strength and range of movement, but they will also reduce your risk for other medical conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease. You can also ask your doctor for exercise recommendations.
(You can even get some good exercise and help raise money for others fighting this disease by taking part in Lupus Walks like the one here in Birmingham.)
A Heart Healthy Diet is the Way to Go
Clinical research has shown that lupus patients are at increased risk for heart disease. This means that you NEED to be eating for your heart. Try building your own lupus-approved diet that incorporates more:
- Whole grains
- Lean sources of protein (like fish and poultry)
We recommend that you ensure you’re getting plenty of calcium in your healthy diet. You should also consider limiting your sodium intake.
Work on Improving Your Sleep
Chronic fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of lupus— affecting nearly 80 percent of patients. Unfortunately, many other symptoms can make getting the sleep you need really difficult. Experts recommend getting at least 7 hours every night and to make time for rests during the day. However, you should try to avoid spending too much time in bed.
Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun
Studies have shown that nearly 67 percent of people with lupus have increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light. This level of sensitivity could even trigger a flare-up. Additionally, certain lupus medications can heighten this sensitivity to ultraviolet light. It is very important to cover up and use sunblock when spending time outside (note that May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month too).
(The sunscreen you use should have a minimum SPF of 30 and broad-spectrum coverage for both UVA and UVB rays.)
Vitamin D Supplementation
Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D for the human body. This means that many lupus patients are vitamin D deficient and this can impact their symptoms in a negative way. Luckily, there are vitamin D supplements available if your levels are low. However, you should consult your doctor about whether this is a good option for you.
As you can see, there are many ways that you can manage the effects of this autoimmune disease in your everyday life. It’s time to get serious about your condition and tell others about Lupus Awareness Month. The more you know about systemic lupus erythematosus, the better you can be at managing your condition.