Staying Ahead of the Curve: Tips for Surviving Parkinson’s
Living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) or any chronic illness is never easy, but with some common sense tips and advice you can manage your symptoms and actually live well with PD. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that a chronic, progressive and constantly advancing disease like PD can be very debilitating to your overall well-being. Perhaps it does, but trust me when I say that I’ve been living, for the most part, relatively well with PD going on 23 years, and I have learned a thing or two.
A thing or two
- Stand before walking – If balance or falling is an issue, always stand slowly and gain your balance before walking. You will eliminate the possibility of falling. Use an assistive device such as a cane or walker or ask for assistance from a loved one.
- Think loud – If speech is affected by PD there are many different tools you can employ to help your speech be clear and heard, even by the hardest of hearing or by the most incessant of talkers. There are speech programs that work on these issues. Occupational therapy can also help and a variety of devices that strengthen muscles in the throat and larynx to improve speech (and swallow). I recommend seeing a Speech Pathologist for the best therapy that can be custom tailored to fit your situation.
- Get involved with a clinical trial – Clinical trials can be very beneficial to your situation especially if the study you choose is focusing on symptoms you are experiencing. Clinical trials are always opt in based on your consent and you can opt out at any time. The results of such trials can not only benefit you but the data will educate researchers on ways to address similar problems in the whole PD community. I encourage you to look into a clinical trial near you.
- Work on cognitive functioning – Sometimes you can’t always see or understand all the symptoms of PD. Some symptoms include problems with decision-making, memory, motivation, desire, organization and more. These are things that may often get overlooked and simply dismissed as fatigue or “I don’t feel up to speed today.” It can feel like being in a fog or haziness. I recommend you maintain a combination of good nutrition, good medication management, and exercise not necessarily in that order. I recommend problem-solving games like crosswords, memory games, puzzles. Many of which are available on a mobile app for your cell phone.
Okay, that was more than a thing or two.
You are what you eat! I’ve been told this by my doctors for years. Everything we eat gets processed and absorbed by our bodies and the rest is flushed out, eventually. The good nutrients… that is the stuff our bodies need to be retained. So think about that the next time you reach for a snack. PD affects everyone differently, but good nutrition is important because Parkinson’s can create a nutrient deficiency and constipation. It actually is well documented and something to consider.
What about a vegan or vegetarian diet? I realize I am probably going to step on a few toes here and I apologize upfront. There is no one plan fits all. Many leading nutritionists recommend a thorough analysis of your daily vitamin intake before embarking upon a self-regimented diet of greens and tofu to avoid deficiencies. Any plan to completely avoid meat and fish could actually be harmful. It is advisable to seek the services of an accredited nutritionist for maximum benefit before you go shopping.
Consider biotics, hormones, and other processed ingredients. Label reading has become so important in our selection of all the products we consume today. What is considered safe? Which is better cage-free or free-range? What is the difference between organic and non-organic? We rely heavily on the FDA not only for the safety of our drugs, but for their watchful diligence of our food supply as well. Obviously, I could write a whole article just on nutrition and there is enough information out there to fill several books but I am just trying to get you to think and stay ahead of the curve.
Tips on exercise
I’d like to go on record that the medical community seems to be in agreement that exercise is important to our overall health but do we as individuals with a chronic illness do enough of it? Probably not!
Any exercise will do. The important part, especially for people with movement disorders such as PD, is to continue to move to keep our muscle tone and stop muscle rigidity. It doesn’t have to occupy every second of every day but any exercise that you can safely perform and that increases your heart rate and respiratory function is beneficial. The emphasis is on continuous activity.
Exercise can be fun! Find a program that suits you. It might be dancing, boxing, yoga, Tai Chi, or some other form of exercise but keep at it. A physical therapist can assist you in choosing an exercise program that’s right for you.
It is so important to make sure you are taking the right medication, on time, every time!
If you need assistance obtaining your medication let your doctor know. They may even have samples they can provide free of charge.
Obviously, we’ve only scratched the surface and you probably are already employing one or more of these tips. This article was meant to be an open discussion so please add any comments on how you stay ahead of the PD curve.