WILLOWICK -- Julie Mead battled her weight most of her life. She was well over 400 pounds and could barely get off the couch.
She'd tried and failed countless diets but, after the birth of her son, realized it wasn't fair to him to have a mother who couldn't be active.
Weight Watchers worked for her in the past so she went back with a renewed commitment to make it work. That was three and a half years ago and she's lost 320 pounds since then by sticking to a healthy eating plan, keeping a food journal, planning every meal and exercising daily.
But a year ago she noticed a numbness in her leg.
When she went to the doctor, she was shocked to learn she had multiple sclerosis. When she met Cleveland Clinic MS specialist Dr. Lael Stone, she was even more shocked to learn that her weight loss actually helped keep the MS from progressing.
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder where the body's immune cells attack the nervous system.
Dr. Stone says Caucasion women who smoke are at higher risk for getting MS. She also says living in Northeast Ohio puts people at higher risk, but they're not sure of the cause.
Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes all rev up the immune system and Dr. Stone says controlling those issues, may help get MS under control.