Parkinson’s Disease affects around 1 in 500 people, but it’s a very real fear for everyone. Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease each year, a brain disorder that drastically changes the trajectory of your life. Although there is no known cure for this disease, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease, relieve any symptoms you’re experiencing and maintain your quality of life while slowing down the progression of this disease if you’ve already been diagnosed.
- 1 What is Parkinson’s Disease?
- 2 What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
- 3 What are the Risk Factors for Parkinson’s Disease?
- 4 Common Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease
- 5 Conventional medicine for Parkinson’s Disease
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
The first step to learning how to maintain your quality of life with Parkinson’s is to learn what this disease is all about. Parkinson’s Disease is a brain disorder that causes uncontrollable and unintended movements, such as shaking, stiffness and difficulty with balance, walking and overall coordination. It can also lead to behavioral change and mental health challenges, such as sleep problems, depression, fatigue, and memory difficulties.
But it rarely affects the young. Most people with Parkinson’s developed it after age 60, with about 5% to 10% experiencing the onset before the age of 50, according to studies. For those without Parkinson’s Disease, the risk of development becomes significantly greater with age and the symptoms typically get worse with time and the older you get.
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
The cause of Parkinson’s Disease has been strongly linked to the loss of nerve cells in part of the brain known as the substantia nigra. These nerve cells are responsible for producing dopamine, a brain chemical that is often referred to as ‘the happy hormone’. This part of the brain is also responsible for movement control. When these neurons die off or become impaired, they produce less dopamine, resulting in a loss of control of movements.
What are the Risk Factors for Parkinson’s Disease?
As you may have guessed, the biggest risk factor for developing Parkinson’s Disease is age. The average of development happens after the age of 60, with only 5-10% of cases experiencing onset at 50. Both men and women are at risk of developing this disease, but studies show that it affects men 50% more than it affects women.
Some cases of Parkinson’s also appear to be hereditary, and a few have been linked to specific genetic mutations. As a result, many researchers believe that Parkinson’s disease is the result of a combination of genetic factors and environmental factors such as the ones mentioned below:
- Lifestyle factors, such as smoking
- Genetic factors and family history
- Head trauma
- Exposure to chemicals, such as metals, pesticides, herbicides, solvents, etc.
Common Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease
Although Parkinson’s Disease is believed to be incurable, there are a variety of treatments available that can be used to prevent and reduce your risk of development, relieve any symptoms you may be experiencing, and even slow down the progression of the disease. The most common recommendation is to just start taking better care of yourself. Regular exercise, eating a healthy, clean diet, getting an adequate amount of quality sleep at night and staying hydrated can go a long way. Doing these simple things can help preserve physical function, ease symptoms and enhance your quality of life and overall health and wellness.
But there are also many additional things you can do to help – from conventional medicine to integrative therapies, such as massage, yoga, and dietary supplements.
Conventional medicine for Parkinson’s Disease
The initial form of treatment that most people learn about or opt for is conventional medicine. Levodopa is the most common medication used to treat Parkinson’s Disease, as it’s a natural chemical that passes into the brain to get converted to dopamine. This makes sense why it is so effective, as the main cause of Parkinson’s has been linked to low dopamine levels.
Unfortunately, like many medications, levodopa does have quite a few intense side effects, which is why it’s commonly used in combination with another medication called carbidopa. The latter makes it easier to tolerate the side effects. Whether or not medication will work for you depends on a variety of factors, such as:
- The level of functional impairment
- The level of cognitive impairment
- Your ability to tolerate antiparkinsonian medication
Depending on the severity of your condition, surgery may be a possible treatment option. There are a variety of surgeries that can be performed to make it easier for patients to manage their symptoms. For example, most are deigned to help reduce the rigidity or tremor that comes with Parkinson’s. Others are designed so you can decrease the amount of medication needed to control your symptoms.
- Lesion Surgery: small lesions are made in certain parts of the brain to help movement control
- Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS): a small electrode is placed in the brain and then attached to a small battery placed under the skin to help movement control
- Tissue Transplants: a new possible surgery that uses another part of the brain as a replacement to the functions that aren’t working properly
While it is recommended to start eating a cleaner, healthier diet, taking supplements may help improve Parkinson’s Disease, especially if you’re not looking to do any major diet changes. Nutritional supplements make it easy to get the additional vitamins, minerals, amino acids and benefits into your system. Some supplements you may want to consider include:
- Coenzyme Q10: an antioxidant that can help cells collect energy from oxygen
- Creatine: an amino acid that can slow down the progression of Parkinson’s in the early stage, increase phosphocreatine (an energy source for muscles and the brain), and that protects gain nerve cell injury
- Vitamin C with Vitamin E: both are antioxidants that, when used together, can potentially reduce the risk of developing or further development of Parkinson’s
- Glutathione: an antioxidant that gets depleted in the substantia nigra in people with Parkinson’s; replenishing may prevent the progression of the disease
- Curcumin: an antioxidant that contains anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties that can also provide protection against nerve cell damage and prevent the clumping of Lewy bodies (a sign of Parkinson’s)
With Parkinson’s Disease largely affected movement control, yoga is an excellent practice to get into. Not only will it help soothe your stress, anxiety and depression associated with your disease and the low dopamine levels, but it can also help increase flexibility, mobility, strength, and balance.
There’s no better time to treat yourself to a massage. While the effectiveness of massage therapy for relieving symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease is said to be short-term, this form of integrative therapy has been shown to reduce muscle rigidity and tremors. The effects also begin immediately after a 60-minute session.
There are certain types of movement therapies that can be used to help counteract the deterioration of motor skills that occurs with Parkinson’s. The two most common ones are:
- The Alexander Technique: emphasizes posture and balance and may help retain mobility
- The Feldenkrais Method: retrains the body to do difficult movements., which can help alleviate symptoms
The body is filled with all kinds of energy centers and acupuncture can be used to stimulate certain points in the body to provide a specific effect. For example, acupuncture can be used to help ease pain associated with Parkinson’s Disease, or to address fatigue or poor sleep issues. It can also be neuroprotective, which can slow down the degeneration of neurons that lead to Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is primarily linked to low dopamine levels and many of the treatment options available are designed to boost dopamine production to help mitigate some of the symptoms. And while there are many prescription treatments out there that can help alleviate your symptoms, there are just as many natural remedies that are proven to be just as effective.
Lastly, you may want to check out our recommendation: The Parkinson’s Protocol.