This week I was listening to the ETP (1) blog cast and was really inspired by the post on the work of DR Elinor Ben-Menachem on her project on exercise and epilepsy as discussed with Dr Joseph Sirven.(2)
Raising seizure threshold by exercising more. Low cardiovascular fitness related to 79% higher risk of developing epilepsy after age 18.
Exploring the importance of exercise before the age of 18 in the importance of prevention of health problems in later life, including epilepsy. The possibility that exercise may be an inexpensive way of managing seizures is also mentioned.
Her message is that exercise is ‘good for the brain and the heart, and everything else’.
Full transcript (3)
Also of interest Dr Ben-Menachem’s Hot Topics Symposium Modulators of Epilepsy: The Influence of Lifestyle and Environmental Factors (4)
This research presentation is interesting because it covers neuroplasticity, the hippocampus, the role of exercise in preventing central nervous system diseases, cardiovascular fitness and the future risk of epilepsy. Hormones are also discussed. The Hypothalamic Pituitary Testes and Ovarian axis is covered, together with progesterone treatment trial.
The hypothesis is: cardiovascular fitness could modulate brain plasticity by increasing amounts of circulating growth factors or beta endorphins or some other neuroactive molecule.
Dr Ben-Menachem discusses the Olympic silver medallist cyclist Marion Clignet (5) who was not allowed to race for America at the Olympics so she cycled for France instead. Marion has written a book called ‘Tenacious’ with a fellow sportsman yachtsman Benjamin Hovey who also has epilepsy see here (6) (7)
Further athletes with epilepsy at the Olympics can be found at (8) The Epilepsy Institute of North Carolina blog. Worthy of note in this blog post:
‘Dai Greene played football (soccer for us since he’s British) when he was a teenager. He had to quit playing soccer in his late teens due to a growing spurt that causes knee pain. It is called Osgood Schlatter Disease. He now runs the 400m hurdler for Welsh and Great Britain. Dai had his first seizure at seventeen. He doesn’t take any medication; instead he doesn’t drink any alcohol and makes sure he gets the right amount of sleep needed. Several medals have been won and he will be Captain for the Great British Athletics Team.’
This is very promising from the point of view of the possibilities of using alternative means to control seizures and giving people options beyond medication.
Dr Ben-Menachem has also written a book called Case Studies in Epilepsy (Case Studies in Neurology) [Kindle Edition] (9) This book looks very interesting and although it is out of my price range the initial ‘look inside’ was very promising so if you can find it at a library resource it may be very useful.
Dr Ben-Menachem covers barriers that prevent people with epilepsy from exercising such as; over protection, social isolation, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. She mentions that weight can be a problem.
I would add one other problem area facing people with epilepsy and exercise which is ‘stigma’; either because of society, weather it is because of lack of understanding of epilepsy or ignorance of what epilepsy is and that it is important to exercise no matter what the health problem.
Exercising in groups is recommended.
Some useful strategies for safely exercising with epilepsy are covered in this blog post from Rosewinelover epilepsy action media volunteer;
For myself I can say that without exercise my personal seizure management is extremely challenging because I experience so many positive benefits from exercising. (10)
Happy Exercising Everybody!
Epilepsy Therapy Project
3) http://professionals.epilepsy.com/pdfs/Exercise%20and%20Epilepsy%20-%20HC%20-%201_9_13.pdf Epilepsy Therapy Project Blogcast Transcript