Lifestyle factors in multiple sclerosis disability progression and silent brain damage: A cross-sectional study

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2022 Sep;65:104016. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2022.104016. Epub 2022 Jul 3.


Objective: To determine the association between lifestyle risk factors with 1/ the Multiple Sclerosis Severity Score (MSSS) and 2/ ongoing subclinical brain damage in non-active MS patients on high-efficacy treatment.

Methods: Cross-sectional study in persons with Multiple Sclerosis (PwMS) investigating lifestyle factors including cognitive reserve (CR), physical activity (PA), smoking status, alcohol use, dietary habits, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure (BP) and cholesterol ratio. Data were collected through validated questionnaires, clinical and laboratory examination. Serum Neurofilament light chain (sNfL) levels were used as a proxy for ongoing brain damage in a subgroup of persons with non-active MS on high-efficacy treatment. Multiple regression analysis (MRA) models explored the relationship between lifestyle factors with the MSSS score and sNfL.

Results: 351 PwMS were included (43.04 ± 11.77 years, 69.8% female). Higher CR and PA were associated with a lower MSSS; overweight or obesity and higher systolic BP with a higher MSSS. The MRA model explained 22.2% of the variance for MSSS (R².255, adjusted R².222). Higher BMI and BP were related to lower sNfL. Twenty-3% (R².279, adjusted R².230) of the variance was explained in the MRA model for sNfL.

Conclusion: Our study suggests an association between a 'brain healthy lifestyle' with disability progression in MS. A cognitive and physical active lifestyle alongside a normal body weight and blood pressure may help to prevent future disability in MS. Longitudinal and interventional research is necessary to gain insight in the causal pathway of these risk factors in preventing disability progression in MS.

Keywords: Disability progression; Lifestyle factors; Multiple sclerosis; Neurofilament.

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / epidemiology