Simplifying Parkinson’s Disease
Simplifying Parkinson’s Disease
Over 7 million people are afflicted with Parkinson’s disease in our country. It is hardly a life once the disease kicks in, so it pays to know what it’s about and how to know if you have it.
What Is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes a gradual loss of muscle control. The symptoms of Parkinson’s tend to be mild at first and can sometimes be overlooked. Distinctive signs of the disease include tremors, stiffness, slowed body movements, and poor balance. Parkinson’s was originally called a “shaking palsy,” but not everyone with Parkinson’s has a tremor.
While Parkinson’s can be a frightening diagnosis, life expectancy is about the same as for people without the disease. For some people symptoms evolve slowly over 20 years. Early treatment can provide years that are virtually symptom-free. About 5% to 10% of cases occur before age 50.
The early signs of Parkinson’s may be subtle and can be confused with other conditions. They include:
- Slight shaking of a finger, hand, leg, or lip
- Stiffness or difficulty walking
- Difficulty getting out of a chair
- Small, crowded handwriting
- Stooped posture
- A ‘masked’ face, frozen in a serious expression
Tremor is an early symptom for about 70% of people with Parkinson’s. It usually occurs in a finger or hand when the hand is at rest — but not when the hand is in use. It will shake rhythmically, usually four to six beats per second, or in a “pill-rolling” manner, as if rolling a pill between the thumb and index finger. Tremor also can be a symptom of other conditions, so by itself it does not indicate Parkinson’s.
As people grow older, they naturally slow down. But if they have “bradykinesia,” a sign of Parkinson’s, the slow movement may impair daily life. When they want to move, the body may not respond right away, or they may suddenly stop or “freeze.” The shuffling walk and “mask-like” face sometimes found in those with Parkinson’s can be due to bradykinesia.
Symptom: Impaired Balance
People with Parkinson’s tend to develop a stooped posture, with drooping shoulders and their head jutted forward. Along with their other movement issues, they may have a problem with balance. This increases the risk of falling
Who Gets PD?
The average age of onset is 62, but people over 60 still have only a 2% to 4% likelihood of developing the disease. Having a family member with PD slightly increases your risk. Men are one-and-a-half times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women
A Better Diet for Parkinson’s
It’s important to have a well-balanced diet, with calcium and vitamin D for bone strength. Although protein can interfere with levodopa, you can avoid the problem by taking the medicine about a half-hour before mealtime. If you have nausea, take your medicine with crackers or ginger ale. Eating a high-fiber diet with lots of fluids can prevent constipation.
Can Symptoms Be Prevented?
Researchers are investigating supplements or other substances that may protect neurons from the damage of Parkinson’s, but it is too soon to say whether they work. Coffee drinkers and smokers may have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s (although smoking obviously has other serious health consequences)
All in all, there’s only so much we can do about Parkinson’s Disease, we can just place our hope in the researchers and scientists who are working tirelessly on a solution and pray that they come up with positive results soon. The only way we can do at the moment is stay healthy and drink an appropriate amount of coffee!