If you've received a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, you'll need to
work closely with your doctor to find a treatment plan that offers you
the greatest relief from symptoms with the fewest side effects. Certain
lifestyle changes also may help make living with Parkinson's disease
Eating a healthy diet
a nutritionally balanced diet that contains plenty of fruits, vegetables
and whole grains. These foods contain natural antioxidants that help
protect against free radical damage. They're also high in fiber, which
is important for helping prevent constipation.
If you take a fiber supplement, such as psyllium powder, Metamucil or
Citrucel, be sure to introduce it gradually and drink 8 to 10 glasses of
fluid daily. Otherwise, your constipation actually may become worse. If
you find that fiber helps your symptoms, use it on a regular basis for
the best results.
In addition, avoid drinking excessive caffeine and alcohol and try to
reduce your consumption of fats — especially saturated fats. Foods that
contain saturated fat include red meat, milk, cheese, ice cream, and
coconut and palm oils. Try to restrict your total fat intake to less
than 30 percent of your daily calories, with no more than 10 percent
coming from saturated sources.
Considering vitamins and supplements
Early studies seemed to show that high doses of vitamin E could delay
the onset of severe Parkinson's symptoms, but this effect wasn't born
out in later clinical trials. New research does indicate, however, that
having adequate amounts of folate, also known as folic acid or vitamin
B-9, may help protect against Parkinson's and other neurologic
disorders, although this has yet to be confirmed.
Researchers are also conducting clinical trials on the nutritional
supplement coenzyme Q-10, a powerful antioxidant that's believed to
repair a defect in the mitochondria that occurs in people with
Parkinson's disease. Mitochondria are structures within the cells that
are involved in energy production. If you're interested in supplementing
your diet or learning more, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Eating and swallowing carefully
may have difficulty swallowing in the later stages of Parkinson's
disease. To help make eating and swallowing easier:
Take small bites
of food and chew each mouthful thoroughly.
mouthful before putting more food into your mouth.
Try chopping food
in a food processor or blender to make it easier to eat.
Take your time
eating. Use a warming tray under your plate so your food doesn't get
cold before you're done.
Regular exercise is extremely important for people with Parkinson's
disease. It helps improve mobility, balance, range of motion and even
emotional well-being. Your doctor or physical therapist may recommend a
formal exercise program, but any physical activity, including walking,
swimming or gardening, is beneficial. In fact, some studies have shown
that weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging and dancing, may
be more helpful than physical therapy for people with Parkinson's
Keep in mind that your energy level may go up and down, and you'll
sometimes need to pace yourself. If you're tired, try doing one part of
your routine at one time of day and adding another segment later. Also,
choose a time to exercise when your medicines are working well and you
Be sure to stretch before and after you exercise. Stretching warms up
your muscles, helps prevent stiffness and improves your flexibility and
Walking with care
Parkinson's disease can disturb your sense of balance, making it hard to
walk with a normal gait. These suggestions may help:
If you notice
yourself shuffling, slow down and check your posture. It's best to
stand up straight with your head over your hips and your feet 8 to
10 inches apart.
Buy a good pair of
walking shoes. Avoid running shoes.
long steps and exaggerate lifting your legs and swinging your arms.
If you become
stuck in place — known as freezing — rock gently from side to side
or pretend you're stepping over an object on the floor.
the later stages of the disease, you may fall more easily. That's
because Parkinson's disease affects the balance and coordination centers
in the brain. In fact, you may be thrown off balance by just a small
push or bump. The following suggestions may help:
Ask your doctor or
physical therapist about exercises that improve balance, especially
tai chi. Originally developed in China more than 1,000 years ago,
tai chi uses slow, graceful movements to relax and strengthen
muscles and joints.
shoes. They're less likely to slip than shoes with leather soles.
Remove all area
rugs from your home and make sure carpeting is secured firmly to the
especially along stairways.
and telephone cords out of the way.
Install grab bars
around your tub and beside the toilet.
Dressing can be the most frustrating of all activities for someone with
Parkinson's disease. The loss of fine motor control makes it hard to
button and zip clothes, and even to step into a pair of pants. A
physical therapist can point out techniques that make daily activities
easier. These suggestions may also help:
Allow plenty of
time so you don't feel rushed.
that you can slip on easily, such as sweat pants, simple dresses or
pants with elastic waistbands.
Look for clothes
and shoes with Velcro fasteners, or replace buttons on clothes you
have with Velcro.
in the early stages of Parkinson's disease, your voice may become very
soft or hoarse. To communicate more easily:
Face the person
you're talking to, and deliberately speak louder than you think is
or reciting out loud, focusing on your breathing and on having a
Speak for yourself
— don't let others speak for you.
speech-language pathologist who is trained to treat people with
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