Approximately 60,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, and currently more than 1 million United States residents are living with the disease.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease on record after Alzheimer’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic progressive disorder of the nervous system. While there are no definitive causes of the disease, there are several symptoms and treatment options. One of the best coping mechanisms for patients and loved ones is to join Parkinson’s disease support groups.
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Parkinson’s disease can be debilitating. While the disease directly impacts neural function, daily life is affected too. Parkinson’s disease patients may experience:
- Cognitive difficulties
- Swallowing difficulties
- Sleep disorders
- Bladder problems
This disease typically affects older people. The average age of onset is 60 years old. Parkinson’s disease is considered a hereditary disease, meaning that individuals with a parent or sibling who is affected are twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. In addition, males are 1.5 times more likely than females to have Parkinson’s disease. Lastly, those who are exposed to toxins, such as agricultural pesticides and herbicides and well water in rural areas, are in danger of acquiring Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease symptoms are generally related to difficulty or lack of control of bodily movements. There are several common symptoms of the disease:
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia)
- Rigid muscles
- Impaired posture and balance
- Loss of automatic movements
- Difficulty speaking (dysarthria)
Parkinson’s disease has no exact causes but there is a correlation between decreased dopamine levels in the brain and developing the disease. Parkinson’s disease treatment includes medication, surgery, and positive lifestyle choices such as proper nutrition and exercise, to overcome the effects of this disease.
There are several medications that treat Parkinson’s disease. Common medications include carbidopa-levodopa, dopamine agonists, MAO-B inhibitors, COMT inhibitors, anticholinergics, and amantadine. These medications are designed to regulate or substitute for dopamine, a specific neurotransmitter in the brain.
If medications are ineffective, Parkinson’s patients should consider surgery. Three common surgeries for Parkinson’s disease are lesion surgery, deep brain stimulation (DBS), and neural grafting or tissue transplants. These surgeries aim to reduce Parkinson’s symptoms within the brain.
Lifestyle choices such as nutrition and exercise are excellent supplements to medications in overcoming Parkinson’s disease. The list of foods below limit Parkinson’s disease because they promote dopamine production in the brain.
To limit the effects of Parkinson’s disease, a good diet consists of:
- Green leaf vegetables
- Pumpkin seeds
In addition to a balanced diet, exercise is critical. It is recommended to ride the elliptical or stationary bike for at least 30 minutes a day. Large amplitude exercises are also beneficial. These include any activities that include whole-body deliberate movements such as physical therapy. Large amplitude exercise programs are designed to re-calibrate motor and perceptual systems to inhibit Parkinson’s patients from minimizing amplitude of movements. Other therapies can supplement large amplitude therapy to aid in strength and balance training. These therapies include exaggerated rotations and multi-directional sustained movements such as floor-to-ceiling reach, forward steps, and side-to-side rock and reach. These exercises challenge the body to maintain a full range of motion and flexibility.
A holistic approach to treatment is valuable to longevity and quality of life. Taking simple steps such as managing medications, and having a balanced diet with plenty of exercise can go a long way in prolonging the life and experiences of a Parkinson’s disease patient.
Navigating Life With Parkinson’s Disease Web Series
Being diagnosed at the age of 49 with Parkinson’s Disease, Vito Cosmo has an intimate understanding of how the disease affects both personal and professional life. He also understands the importance of good nutrition, regular exercise, and positivity. Click here to view this 17-part healtheo360 web series.
How to Join a Parkinson’s Disease Support Group
Parkinson’s Disease support groups are designed for both patients and loved ones to cope with the disease together. The American Parkinson Disease Association sponsors Parkinson’s disease support groups in the 48 contiguous states. These groups have meetings, awareness walks, and other events to bring the Parkinson’s community together and unite against this devastating disease.
AquaCarePT. “Parkinson's Disease and ‘Big’ Large Amplification Exercises.” Parkinson's Disease and "Big" Large Amplification Exercises, YouTube, 25 July 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dS90O_cVGM.
“Find Local Resources & Support Near You.” APDA, www.apdaparkinson.org/community/.
“Parkinson's Disease (PD).” healtheo360, www.healtheo360.com/condition/parkinsons-disease-pd/about/.
“Parkinson's Disease (PD).” healtheo360, www.healtheo360.com/condition/parkinsons-disease-pd/symptoms/.