Ease the burden – find the cure

“Parkinson’s disease (is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system affecting more than 1.5 million people in the United States. Clinically, the disease is characterized by a decrease in spontaneous movements, gait difficulty, postural instability, rigidity and tremor. Parkinson’s disease is caused by the degeneration of the pigmented neurons in the Substantia Nigra of the brain, resulting in decreased dopamine availability. The major symptoms of the disease were originally described in 1817 by an English physician, Dr. James Parkinson, who called it “Shaking Palsy.” Only in the 1960’s, however, pathological and biochemical changes in the brain of patients were identified, opening the way to the first effective medication for the disease.”

Parkinson’s Disease……why?

Parkinson’s Disease hits home with me.  Just over 1 year ago, my Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Although diagnosed at quite a young age, she is well taken care of with medication, a great neurologist, and specific exercises tailored just for her (What do you expect?–She has a PT for a daughter!) She is doing so great!  I have experience in my career working with people with Parkinson’s Disease, but never thought that my Mom would be one of them.  April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and I wanted to use this blog post to raise awareness and improve acceptability of people living well with this disease.

One of the first things I told my mom on the day that they told us she was diagnosed was to ‘Live like you don’t have this diagnosis. Pretend like there is nothing wrong with you and keep doing everything you are doing and everything you want to do. When you stop doing those things, that’s when you will have trouble’. I really believe this. Just working with patients, I know that once people stop doing something (ie getting down on the floor or walking backward) they have a lot of trouble starting to do them again. Same goes with PD.

Cycling. Cycling. Cycling. Research has shown, (and I’ve read it!) that cycling can drastically decrease the amount and severity of tremors  that a person with PD experiences. In a nutshell, it is believed that the repetitive and cyclical nature of cycling helps to decrease the tremors. Some people have reduction in symptoms for hours on end; my Mom is one of them. Bring on the biking!

Exercise can not only keep a person with PD feeling better on a day to day basis, but it might also help to slow the entire progression of the disease. That’s right, exercise can help to s-l-o-w the disease down! Stretching, cycling, ‘big and loud‘ movements are especially helpful.

Of course, medication is a very important piece of the puzzle, but it’s not my area.  Most PD patients take Levodopa which is converted to dopamine once it reaches the brain, which is a neurotransmitter that is found deficient in people with PD.

To learn more, the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA) has a great website. There are support groups in most major areas; there are at least 3 within 30 miles from us. There is a specialty ‘Yoga for Parkinson’s’ class beginning in a city near us and exercise groups all over the place. Research is always changing and right now there are some exciting breakthroughs just beginning with new treatments.

So if you, or anyone you know is diagnosed with PD, at any age, don’t despair.  People are living great lives while managing the disease at the same time–just ask my Mom  🙂   There is a lot of great help out there and resources to help ‘ease the burden — find the cure’.

Thanks for reading!

-The {growing} Costello’s

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