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Lou Ruvo Center’s video aimed at helping MS sufferers stay sharp

Milena Kaplan works in a pharmacy, so she knows about the importance of keeping fit. She said she has always made exercise a priority, going to the gym for spin classes two or three times a week.

In 2012, she’d just finished a class and was walking to her car when “my legs just gave out. It was a Jell-O-y feeling and I didn’t know what was going on,” Kaplan said.

She asked a passing gym member to help her back inside, then collapsed. She was taken to MountainView Hospital and when she was released the next day, she was advised to follow up with her doctor. After three months and a battery of tests, Kaplan was given a diagnosis: multiple sclerosis.

“I was stunned,” she said. “It was very upsetting.”

There is no cure for MS, a debilitating disease that affects the central nervous system.

To help people like Kaplan, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health has a new workout video specific to the MS patient. It was put together by Dr. Le Hua, director of the mellen program for MS at the Lou Ruvo center, and Jen Nash, manager of rehabilitation services at the center.

“There are things that are different for each patient, so depending on what their physical limitations are, their endurance, we want to tailor a specific program … that would work with most of the patients who we see,” Hua said. “The intent is to give muscle tone and improve core strength while using conservation strategies.”

The simple exercises are adaptable to anyone, as MS strikes people differently.

“It doesn’t matter what disability you have,” Hua said. “You can exercise, so you’re contributing to your care. And that’s probably the most powerful tool you can give a patient. So they get that personal satisfaction that they are doing something about their disease.”

The DVD is given out free. The center began giving it out around Christmas time. The cost to produce it was covered by a grant.

Nash said balance is one issue she sees across the board with MS patients. The sitting-to-standing exercise on the video is aimed at helping those who have difficulty getting up from a chair.

“It’s done without using your hands, so it gives balance and strength,” Nash said.

Other exercises on the video use stretch bands to strengthen the legs.

David Lyons, a bodybuilder and the founder of the MS Fitness Challenge, was diagnosed with MS in his 50s. He said it’s important to maintain a fitness regimen when one has the disease.

“MS can … take anyone down a negative path both physically and mentally,” Lyons said. “Exercise not only conditions the body to help fight the symptoms and limitations of MS, but it helps someone focus on something positive, taking the mind off of what can’t be done and directed to what can be done.”

In his latest book, “Everyday Health and Fitness with Multiple Sclerosis,” Lyons addresses the unique and ever-changing symptoms of MS with regard to exercise. Heat exacerbates MS symptoms, so Lyons suggests wearing a cooling vest or keeping a cold towel around one’s neck.

“Drinking cold water throughout the workout is a must, as it not only cools the body but ensures proper hydration,” he said.

As for Kaplan, she’s using the video 30 to 45 minutes every other day.

“It’s stretching the hips and working on your balance — simple things like a pelvic tilt,” she said. “The video helps me gauge my abilities. I can go to my doctor and say, ‘Six months ago, I was able to lift my foot, but now I (can’t),’ so you’re establishing a baseline.”

To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email jhogan@viewnews.com or call 702-387-2949.

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