Researchers Point to Lifestyle Changes to Help Prevent Lupus
July 7, 2022 (Vancouver) – Physicians and scientists have long-known that genetics play a role in who develops systemic lupus erythematosus. However, there is increasing evidence to suggest lifestyle factors are also to blame.
Smoking, obesity, infections, sleep deprivation, childhood and adult trauma, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, air pollution, and hormonal exposures all increase a person’s risk of developing this serious, chronic autoimmune disease.
“The good news is that many lifestyle factors can be modified,” said Dr. May Y. Choi, a research scientist at Arthritis Research Canada. “We need to develop an early detection strategy that identifies those at risk for the disease based on family history and environmental exposures so that people can, if possible, make lifestyle changes to prevent developing lupus.”
Lupus is extremely difficult to diagnose. People attend an average of 10 consultations with three different physicians before receiving a diagnosis. This delay is often associated with higher disease activity, organ damage, lower quality of life, and increased healthcare costs.
“Screening for lupus has immense potential to improve health outcomes,” Choi said. “Early detection will allow better decision-making regarding prevention strategies and prescribed medications.”
She added that, without timely and accurate diagnosis and evidence-based therapy, patients with lupus will continue to be at increased risk for complications, disability, and premature death.
It is clear that healthcare providers should encourage as many healthy behaviours as possible. However, it is also necessary to recognize the structural and institutional factors that can limit a person’s ability to achieve a healthy lifestyle. These include poverty, racism, and education. The researchers emphasize the importance of addressing these barriers to improve disease prevention among sociodemographic groups that are medically vulnerable.
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