Epilepsy, a neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures, affects millions of people around the world. While medication is the main treatment for epilepsy, adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly complement medical therapy and help control the frequency and severity of seizures. Adopting key lifestyle changes can improve overall well-being and potentially reduce the impact of epilepsy on daily life.
Here are some crucial adjustments that people with epilepsy can consider:
Regular sleep patterns: Getting enough sleep is vital for everyone, but it is especially important for people with epilepsy. Disturbed sleep patterns or lack of sleep can lead to seizures in some cases. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule, aiming for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night, and creating a relaxing bedtime routine can help improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of seizures.
Stress management techniques: Stress is a common trigger for epileptic seizures. Learning stress-reducing techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or practicing hobbies, can help relieve stress levels. Additionally, seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist can provide valuable coping mechanisms to manage stress.
Regular exercise: Physical activity has been shown to have numerous benefits for people with epilepsy. Regular exercise can help reduce stress, improve mood, improve cardiovascular health, and promote better quality sleep. However, it is essential to choose activities that are safe and appropriate for individual fitness levels, and to be aware of any potential seizure triggers related to exertion or overheating.
Say no to alcohol and substance use: Alcohol and certain recreational drugs can lower the seizure threshold and increase the risk of seizures. Limiting or avoiding alcohol and illicit drug use can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.
A balanced diet: While there is no specific ‘epilepsy diet’, maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for overall health and well-being. Some people with epilepsy may find that certain dietary factors influence their seizure activity. Keeping a food journal can help identify potential triggers, such as caffeine, artificial sweeteners, or specific food additives. In some cases, adopting a ketogenic diet—high in fat, adequate in protein, and low in carbohydrates—may be beneficial for seizure control, especially in people with drug-resistant epilepsy.
Medication compliance: Consistently taking prescribed medications as directed by a healthcare professional is essential to effectively manage epilepsy. Skipping doses or abruptly stopping the medication may increase the risk of breakthrough seizures. It is essential to communicate openly with healthcare providers about any concerns or side effects related to medications and to follow their instructions closely.
Seizure response planning: Developing a seizure response plan can help people and their loved ones feel more prepared and confident in managing seizures. This plan may include educating family, friends, and coworkers on how to recognize different types of seizures and how to respond appropriately, as well as ensuring access to necessary medical information and emergency contacts.
Periodic medical follow-up: Regular checkups with healthcare providers, including neurologists or epileptologists, are essential to monitor seizure activity, adjust medications as needed, and address any concerns or complications related to epilepsy. Tracking seizure frequency, triggers, and medication effectiveness can provide valuable information for healthcare providers to optimize treatment strategies.
While epilepsy can present challenges in daily life, by prioritizing factors such as sleep, stress management, physical activity, diet, medication adherence, and seizure preparedness, people with epilepsy can empower themselves to better control their condition and minimize its impact on their lives. It is essential to work closely with healthcare professionals to tailor these lifestyle modifications to individual needs and circumstances, ensuring a comprehensive and personalized approach to epilepsy management.
(Dr Siby Gopinath, Epileptologist and Professor of Neurology at Amrita Hospital, Kochi)
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