Did you know that 15-21 April 2013 is Parkinson’s Awareness Week? With as many as 10 million people around the world living with Parkinson’s disease, now is as good a time as any to raise awareness.
So let’s look at the facts about the disease. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disease caused by the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine – a chemical messenger that makes parts of your brain co-ordinate movement properly. For the most part, Parkinson’s tends to affect people over 65, however around one in 20 people with the disease are under the age of 40.
Because there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, treatment is focused on restoring the levels of dopamine in your brain and managing your symptoms. While the disease may be complex and can affect people differently, there are some things that can be done to help manage the symptoms.
What and how much you eat can affect your overall general health. But for those with Parkinson’s disease, getting the right nutrition can be crucial as some foods can have an effect on drug treatments.
For people with Parkinson’s, eating well is also important for managing weight as being overweight not only increases the risk of obesity and heart disease, it can also put a strain on the muscles and joints – which may already be rigid or stiff as a result of the disease.
The key to getting the right nutrition is eating a well-balanced diet. This should include a variety of starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and wholegrains, proteins such as meat, fish and beans, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Keeping active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone. However, it’s especially beneficial to people with Parkinson’s disease as rigid muscles and joints can be a common symptom. Following a daily exercise routine can help with muscle strength and mobility, and help to combat depression or anxiety, which are often associated with Parkinson’s disease. Remember an exercise routine doesn’t have to mean signing up for a marathon! Instead, joining an exercise class at the local community centre or heading outdoors for a walk in the park can also be beneficial.
Feeling fatigued or extremely tired can be another common symptom of Parkinson’s disease, so following a sleep routine can be especially useful. Avoiding caffeine and alcoholic drinks before bedtime can help to promote a good night’s sleep as they can both make you feel more awake. Before going to bed, taking some time to relax by reading a book or listening to calm music, can also help. For people who still find it difficult to sleep, it might be helpful to speak with a doctor as there may be other options available to you such as medication.
Love and support
Parkinson’s disease affects people in different ways and some find it easier to cope than others. One thing that’s for sure is that having a support system is helpful and encouraging. For those people who aren’t sure whether they want to discuss Parkinson’s with others – such as work colleagues or family members – reaching out to someone they trust first, such as a good friend or partner can help reassure that they aren’t alone.
Author: Jamie Monteath – Follow him on Google+