From Germany to United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi Offers Multiple Sclerosis Patients Chance to Live Healthy, Holistic Lifestyle


Inken Stolley now runs a beauty salon in Abu Dhabi with her sister and follows up with specialists from the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
Image Credit: Provided

Abu Dhabi: The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) prompted this German national to quit her stressful job at home and move to Abu Dhabi.

Today, 41-year-old Inken Stolley leads a balanced lifestyle in the UAE and inspires other MS patients with her holistic lifestyle.

“MS has become my friend. It made me stop and take a moment to reflect on my stressful life in Germany. I decided to reset my life, let go of my fears and limiting beliefs, and started to become much more aware of my diet and lifestyle. MS is my constant reminder to take care of myself. Now, I love to inspire people to live a healthy, conscious lifestyle, whether they have MS or not, ”said Stolley.

Initial diagnosis

The expatriate moved to Abu Dhabi in 2010, about a year after being diagnosed with chronic autoimmune disease. She now runs a beauty salon in Abu Dhabi with her sister and follows up with specialists from the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

She recounted how she first saw an ophthalmologist in Germany after having blurred vision in her left eye. She was diagnosed with optic neuritis, a typical symptom of MS in which the nerve that carries messages from the nerves to the brain is inflamed. Doctors performed an MRI of her brain to confirm the diagnosis of MS, after which she was prescribed disease-modifying treatment. However, she had a relapse with symptoms of numbness in 2010. It was then that she decided to move to Abu Dhabi.

“Today I am grateful. Without this condition, I would not have flown to Abu Dhabi to begin my journey towards a well-balanced life. This is where I also found my family and I now live symptom-free, ”said Stolley, now mother of a five-year-old boy.

Increased prevalence of MS

Dr Beatrice Benedetti, a doctor at Stolley at the Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said that physical well-being and disease progression in MS patients depends crucially on a healthy lifestyle and active, mental health and a drug regimen.

According to a 2019 article published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis International by researchers at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, the incidence and prevalence of MS is increasing globally and is more notable in the Middle East. Another 2016 study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in collaboration with health authorities in Abu Dhabi, showed an incidence of MS almost double the global average, with more than half of patients being Emirati .

Model patient

“I believe [Stolley] is an inspiring example for people with MS. One of the main messages we share with our patients is that they should lead normal lives. Most patients can get married, have children, work, travel, exercise, do whatever they want, ”said Dr Benedetti.

Although there is no cure for MS, in most cases relapsing-remitting MS can be managed well, especially if treatment is started early in the disease. Paying attention to nutrition and exercise can help improve the health and strength of patients and slow the progression of the disease. It is recommended that patients eat a well-balanced diet and maintain an optimal level of vitamin D. They are also advised to do moderate exercise and weight training to build muscle mass and overcome stiffness.

“There are several misconceptions about work and exercise in MS patients. They believe that exercise can make symptoms worse. On the contrary, MS patients are strongly recommended to stay active to maintain their strength and balance. I keep reminding my patients that as long as they are taking their medications, leading a healthy lifestyle and following their doctor’s advice, most of them can go about all of their usual activities, ”said Dr. Benedetti.

Give hope to others

According to Stolley, she has managed to keep her symptoms at bay by being disciplined about her holistic lifestyle. “I care a lot about my nutrition, the quality and amount of water I drink, time in nature, and my healthy sleep patterns – everything I didn’t know about before I contracted MS. . I exercise every day and start my day with meditation and mindfulness because it keeps my body and mind in balance, ”she said.

Stolley is also connecting with MS patients around the world as an MS Hope Ambassador to help them effect the same transformation.

“It’s my mission to spread the word about a healthy lifestyle. I want to help more people in the UAE to better understand MS and see it as a blessing to change their lives and be able to live positive and balanced lives, ”she said.

New website

The Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has launched a new English and Arabic website that provides MS patients and their families with practical advice in simple, easy-to-understand language on topics such as symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and lifestyle, as well as exercise and diet. The site also provides support material and organized external links for physicians and the wider MS community in the UAE.


About Norma Wade

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