Risk Factors Of Multiple Sclerosis
Montel Williams and a few other high profile male celebs have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but by and large, MS disproportionately strikes women, says Nancy L. Sicotte, M.D., the director of the Multiple Sclerosis Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The gender gap is growing.
Where you live
People who live closer to the earth’s poles (Think: Australia, New Zealand, parts of North America, Canada, and Iceland) are at higher risk for MS than those who live closer to the equator. This is true in the U.S. too.
Your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a host of illnesses—including MS.
But before you go thinking you have a handle on it, there are MS hot spots in locations that do get lots of sunlight including parts of Greece and Italy.
When you were born
This is strange, but true. “If your mother was pregnant with you through the winter, you are at greater risk for MS,” Dr. Rose says. “It’s a curious phenomenon, but if you are born in spring or late spring, your mom’s levels of vitamin D during pregnancy may have been low which could explain it.”
MS is more common in whites, particularly those with Northern European ancestry. Some groups—people with African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American ancestry—seem to be at lower risk, although they can still get the disease.
Your smoking status
We all know that smoking is bad news, and that it increases the risk of lung cancer and heart attack. But few know that it’s a well established risk factor for MS too.
MS can be diagnosed at almost any age, from childhood right on up to your years as a senior citizen. However, it’s more likely to occur in people ages 20 to 50.
You have another autoimmune condition
Autoimmune diseases tend to cluster. This means that if you have one, you may also develop others.
Your family tree
While the environment has an impact on MS risk, so too, does genetics. “If a mom has MS, her children have a 5% risk of having MS, and if a dad does, his daughters also have a 5% risk, but his sons have less of a risk,” says Dr. Rose.
You’ve experienced extreme grief
Stress can worsen multiple sclerosis symptoms and some research suggests that it can even increase the risk of developing MS in the first place.