Mike talks to Gavin about the impacts of smoking and alcohol on MS.
Mike: I noticed, especially when we’re talking about potential triggers for causing MS, there was quite a lot of areas talking about smoking being quite a big trigger. Do you think there’s something in that?
Professor Gavin Giovannoni, Neurologist: Yes, I don’t think smoking’s a trigger, I think smoking just makes you more likely to develop autoimmune disease, not only MS, but rheumatoid arthritis, other diseases as well. And people who’ve got MS and who smoke get worse quicker. So yes, big message, don’t smoke. And if you’ve got MS your children are a higher risk of getting MS, simply because they got more genes from you, and so they mustn’t smoke, because smoking increases your risk by 50%. And so message to all children, or second or first degree relatives of people with MS is don’t smoke. It’s easier said than done because society continues to get new smokers on board all the time.
Mike: I think there’s been quite a lot of focus on particular lifestyle factors and it’s, as you say, things like people shouldn’t smoke and they’re saying about not drinking alcohol, for example, in particular, areas of bladder function, for example. How do you feel of that, I think that might resonate with some of our viewers at least?
Professor Gavin Giovannoni: No, I agree and that’s one of the other things highlighted here, we’ve got this thing called Brain Health: Time Matters, and a big chunk of the brain health policy document we put forward is lifestyle factors. It’s not only smoking and diet and exercise, but it’s also things like preventing urinary tract infections, what can we do to optimise comorbidities, because a lot of people with MS have high blood pressure, they may have a bit of diabetes, it’s improving all those factors. And there was a really good talk by Ruth Ann Marrie, she’s one of the neurologists from Canada who works on what we call comorbidities, other diseases that people with MS get, and she’s shown that if you just treat people who’ve got MS who’ve got hypertension and diabetes, end up needing a wheelchair or a walking stick six to eight years earlier than if they didn’t have that. So this is another important factor, to focus not only on MS but other diseases. And if we can modify all the comorbidities we will improve the outcome for people with MS.
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Professor Gavin Giovannoni has an MBBCh, PhD, FCP (Neurol., SA), FRCP, FRCPath amongst his qualifications. He is the Chair of Neurology at Barts and The London School of Medicine. His research interests have focused around multiple sclerosis and inflammatory disorders of the central nervous system. His teaching focuses on clinical neurology and neuroimmunology.