What can I do to help myself?
If you have an MPN it’s important to take good care of yourself. There are many things you can do to feel better.
- Don’t neglect your general health, particularly your cardiovascular health including your cholesterol. It is a good idea to have regular physical checkups, as well as eye health examinations. (And don’t forget screening tests for mammograms, cervical cancer and prostate cancer.)
- Be blood clot aware. Having an MPN puts patients at higher risk of having a blood clot so it’s good to know the signs and how to prevent clots.
- Good nutrition is important. Eat a balanced diet including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Drink plenty of water and be careful to prevent dehydration by avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeinated drinks. An anti-inflammatory diet is often recommended. More information is available at Healthy Eating.
- Weight. Maintain a normal weight to help keep your cholesterol and blood sugar within normal limits
- Maintain your muscle mass
- Exercise. Exercise is very beneficial for MPN patients and helps fight fatigue. The medical profession has often advocated for exercise to be prescribed for cancer patients. More recently, a study in the UK highlights incidental vigorous activity being linked to lower cancer risks – see HERE.
However, be sure to check with your GP and haematologist before launching on any new program and start slowly and gently if you have not exercised before or for some time.
- Get enough sleep (this is vital as it enables our immune system to function correctly and helps us cope with daily stresses).
- Be your own advocate. Read your blood test results in detail. If you feel something is wrong, make sure your doctor understands your concern that something significant has changed.
- Stop smoking. Ask your GP if you need help. And you may find the Australian government’s Quitnow website useful.
Psychological support strategies
- Control stress. Identify what in your life may be putting you under excessive pressure. Make choices about your activities and workload based on your priorities. Try to focus on what you can control, for instance getting more information and help if you need it. Problem solving techniques can also reduce stress. Visit the MPN Voice’s stress management pages for more ideas.
- ‘How to live your best life with MPN’ inspiring interview with haematologist Dr Cecily Forsyth (with thanks to the Leukaemia Foundation).
- Exploring real life with blood cancer – a mind and body experience 2021 wonderfully informative, up to date, fact filled and uplifting presentations from psychologist Jane Fletcher and haematologist Dr Cecily Forsyth (with thanks again to the Leukaemia Foundation).
- Yoga and or meditation. Many people also find that yoga or meditation are beneficial.
Some of the information on this page is provided with thanks to the UK”s MPN Voice.
One of the most important self-management things we can do with MPN is to look after our cardiovascular health, to reduce risk of blood clots. Eating a diet rich in high fibre plant foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains), and including moderate amounts of lean proteins, low fat dairy and heart-healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds protects our heart health. The following booklets provide a treasure chest of information.
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Keeping muscles strong to stay well with an MPN
As we age, we lose skeletal muscle mass and physical strength in a process called sarcopenia. Unfortunately sarcopenia begins from our 30s and after age 50, we can lose up to 15% of our skeletal muscle each decade. Sarcopenia is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older people. MPNs like other chronic inflammatory diseases are risk factors for sarcopenia. Sarcopenia contributes to fatigue and low energy levels experienced by people living with MPN.
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Asher Packman has been a regular speaker for The Leukaemia Foundation on the benefits of non-pharmacological interventions such as meditation and yoga. Personally, Asher has found the daily practice of meditation to be of substantial benefit to his MPN journey, both in terms of lessening the physical burden of symptoms and improving his mental outlook, self-compassion and resilience.
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