Higher Rates of Chronic Diseases in Males Veterans with MS

HINES, IL – Male veterans with multiple sclerosis (MS) have a higher prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, coronary heart disease and stroke than the general population.

That’s according to a study from the Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care at the Hines, IL, VA Hospital, which sought to identify chronic-health conditions that may disproportionately affect male veterans with MS.1

“How idiosyncratic changes related to a person’s primary disability, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), affect that person’s health and aging process is unclear. Research suggests that people with MS experience more premature illness, which may result in the presence of more chronic diseases at a younger age, compared with the general population,” the authors wrote.

“Factors such as inactivity and immobility may place people with MS at increased risk of developing disabilities, and they may be disproportionately affected by chronic diseases Comprehensive research on chronic-disease prevalence among people with MS is lacking, especially among men with MS, since MS is more prevalent in women.”

Researchers collected primary survey data for 1,142 male veterans with MS in 2003 and 2004 and compared disease prevalence with 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System secondary data for comparison groups without MS, including 31,500 veterans and 68,357 in the general population.

Overall, they found, veterans with MS had a high prevalence of hypercholesterolemia (49%), hypertension (47%), diabetes (16%), coronary heart disease (11%) and stroke (7%).

While diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and stroke were more prevalent overall among male veterans with MS than among the general veteran population, except for stroke, differences were not significant for the group aged 50 or older. The authors did note, however, that nearly half of male veterans with MS had hypercholesterolemia and hypertension.

The study, published last year in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, is the first comprehensive national examination of chronic-disease prevalence in a large cohort of male veterans with MS compared with population-based surveillance data from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“Future studies to examine age at onset and chronic disease severity relative to age- and sex-matched controls are needed to provide knowledge about premature morbidity and aging in people with MS,” the authors wrote. “Further research is needed to understand the effects of clusters of comorbidities in this cohort. Research on the epidemiology of multiple chronic diseases in MS is scarce, and our findings help bridge a literature gap. We identified chronic disease priorities among male veterans with MS that may be targeted for early intervention to improve health and reduce disparities in this population.”

1. LaVela SL, Prohaska TR, Furner S, Weaver FM. Chronic diseases in male veterans with multiple sclerosis. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:110121. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd9.110121.

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