There is no known cause for Parkinson's Disease.There is no known cure for Parkinson's Disease.
I've known several people that have been diagnosed with Parkinson's and their initial response is very typical:
"I don't believe it."
Then, there's a period of denial.
"I don't have Parkinson's."
Yes, you probably do.
There are stages of Parkinson's and the symptoms demonstrate differently in different people.
It is caused by the loss of brain cells (neurones) in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which produces the chemical messenger dopamine. As the cells die, less dopamine is produced and transported to the striatum, the area of the brain that co-ordinates movement. Symptoms develop when about 80% of dopamine has been lost.Symptoms vary from tremors, to slowness of movement (bradykinesia) to muscle stiffness or rigidity. Michael J. Fox, actor, developed Parkinson's at a young age. His symptoms initially were shaky hands, which he disguised by wringing his hands, or keeping his hands in his pockets. Many people thought that Kathryn Hepburn, actress, had Parkinson's, but she denied it, citing that she inherited her shaking head from her grandfather. (Note, denial is common amongst Parkinson's patients.) Muhammad Ali, world champion boxer, also had Parkinson's, although, his part of his condition may have been attributed to the numerous hits to his head during his fighting career.
Bradykinesia is the most common symptom of Parkinson's and is a slowness of movement that require stringing together several activities or steps, such as getting dressed, eating, or walking. Individuals may walk slowly, often stopping mid-step, as if distracted. Then, as if awakened, they will start walking again. Sometimes, these individuals appear "distant", but can listen and carry on a conversation. The difference is that they do not move, as if "frozen". Other individuals suffer gait problems, either caused from the slowing down of movement, or from the muscle stiffness and rigidity. Gait problems, can ultimately lead to falls. In some circumstances, a cane or walker may improve an individual's ability to walk better.
The Good News! Exercise!While there is no cure for Parkinson's, studies have shown that exercise, especially exercise of low to moderate intensity can slow the progression of the disease significantly. Exercise offers the following benefits:
- Maintains mobility
- Maintains flexibility of muscles
- Maintains range of motion of joints
- Maintains strength of muscles
- Maintains balance
- Decreases depression
An individual with Parkinson's should check with their doctor for recommendations specific to then, however, general guidelines may be prescribed as follows:
- Cardiovascular activity at a low to moderate level for 20-50 minutes. Cardiovascular exercise encourages the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for movement. Cardiovascular exercise also works the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems of the body, moving blood and oxygen throughout. This in turn, aids the digestive system.
- Strength training exercises appropriate for the individual. These exercises may include bodyweight squats, leg extensions, leg abduction/adduction, pelvic tilts, bridges, and upper body weights. Approximately 10-20 minutes, 3-5 times a week might be a good guideline.
- Flexibility training for all the major muscle groups will improve the range of motion of the joints and can decrease further stiffness. This may include light yoga for as little as 10 minutes a day. Flexible joints will improve gait and help with daily living.
- Balance training for approximately 5-10 minutes once or twice a day will help with balance issues. If an individual is unsteady, he or she should use a grab bar, counter, rail or may use a steady professional or another individual for assistance.
It is recommended that an exercise program be developed by either a qualified personal trainer and/or with a physician's recommendations, and depending on the severity of the disease, the exercise routine perhaps should be done with assistance.