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BLOG - Living With Parkinson’s Disease

Nearly one million people are currently living with Parkinson’s disease in the United States, and unfortunately, that number is expected to climb up to 1.2 million by the year 2030. Parkinson’s disease 一 a type of neurodegenerative disorder in which nerve cells in a targeted area of your brain deteriorate 一 causes slow movement (bradykinesia), limb rigidity, tremors, gait issues, constipation, memory loss, difficulty swallowing, and balance problems. 

The neurology specialists here at Ventura Neuroscience Center in Oxnard, California want you to know that even though living with Parkinson’s disease can be challenging, there are many things you can do to improve your quality of life. 

Living with Parkinson’s disease

Combining lifestyle modifications with the right medications can help you to stay independent and can enhance your quality of life.

Focus on diet

While there isn’t a “Parkinson's disease diet,” there are many ways to focus on nutrition to support your brain health. A well-balanced diet should contain plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, and whole grains. Examples of specific foods that support brain health include walnuts, cashews, avocados, salmon, chia seeds, and dark leafy greens. 

Your diet doesn’t just support your brain health, but it also helps you avoid other health problems that are common in Parkinson’s disease patients. For instance, studies show that high blood pressure is common in those with the disease, but your dietary choices can help you reduce your risk of these complications. Consuming moderate levels of sodium (and avoiding processed foods that are high in sodium) can help promote healthy blood pressure levels.

Because Parkinson’s disease can affect the muscles in your face, it’s not uncommon to struggle with swallowing. If swallowing is hard, try pureeing solid foods or adding thickening liquids to soups to avoid the liquid from going down your airway. 

Additionally, aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water each day, and always take your medication with a full glass of water. Some medication may need to be taken on an empty stomach. If you have questions about your medication and when to take it, don’t hesitate to reach out to your provider at Link Neuroscience Institute. 

Focus on lifestyle modifications 

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, there are many lifestyle modifications that can help you retain your independence. One of the best tips is to incorporate assistive tools into your daily routine. 

Walking is good for everyone, but if balance problems make it hard to walk, consider using a cane, walking with a friend, or joining community exercise programs intended for those with Parkinson’s disease. Bathroom aids, such as grab bars, shower chairs, and non-skid mats, can make bathing safer. Choose velcro shoes instead of laces, and look for clothing with easier-to-use fasteners. Other tools to consider include writing tools (pens with pen grips) and enhanced computer gear (special keyboards and joysticks).

Focus on mental health

If you’re newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it’s normal to focus on the imminent physical needs. However, don’t forget to focus on your mental health too. It’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions when you’re living with Parkinson’s disease. You can support your mental health by:

  • Joining a support group (either online or in-person)
  • Exercising (tai chi reduces balances impairments and supports your mental health)
  • Work through your feelings in therapy
  • Focus on diet (which can also support mood)

Support groups and therapy can be individual or family focused.

Focus on the right medication

Because our team takes an integrative approach here at Ventura Neuroscience Center, we develop a treatment plan that improves your mobility and movement, helps to manage your symptoms, and enables you to have the best possible lifestyle. Part of this treatment plan includes different medications to boost dopamine levels or to address specific symptoms, such as tremors.

If medications alone aren’t enough to manage your symptoms, you may be a candidate for deep brain stimulation, which is a procedure that targets the structures in your brain that control movement and helps improve tremors.