Parkinson’s dystonia conference in planning stages

Los Angeles based Nessa Weinman, an advocate for people with Parkinson’s Disease, announced plans for a symposium on dystonia. Dystonia is a relatively unknown and often misunderstood symptom of Parkinson’s Disease.

The event will be hosted by Dr. Michale Tagliati of Cedars-Sinai medical hospital. Tagliati is an internationally known movement disorders neurologist who has done significant research on dystonia.

Weinman noted, “Dystonia began to come up more and more often during our support group meetings. My husband Mike struggles with this as well and there seems to be a growing interest in understanding and addressing this symptom.”

Weinman thought it would be a good idea to set up an educational presentation specifically directed on this very common but silent symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. “I’ve discussed this with Dr. Tagliati and he is very enthusiastic about putting together this event.” The event will likely be held at Cedars Sinai medical center.

Patrick LoSasso, vice president of the Parkinson’s Association will assist in promoting and producing the event, with the help of the Parkinson’s Association, a Southern California nonprofit who’s mission is to make lives better today for people who live with PD.
Parkinsons Dystonia is defined by WebMD as: “a group of movement disorders that vary in their symptoms, causes, progression, and treatments. This group of neurological conditions is generally characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that force the body into abnormal, sometimes painful, movements and positions (postures).”
For more information contact The Parkinson’s Association, (877) 737-7576


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How Often to Exercise with Parkinson's

The most effective mental state for people with Parkinson’s disease is optimism and ‘feeling normal’. Keeping this in mind, an exercise plan for such people living with parkinson’s and those who are not, should not vary all that much. According to general health requirements, every individual and thus, patients with Parkinson’s disease should indulge in exercise, four to five times a week for as long as 30-40 minutes each session. Both the American Heart Association  and The American College of Sports Medicine recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of intensive exercise. The entire period of exercise should be made as fun as possible, without the stress of following an extreme or intensive exercise routine. Engaging in group exercises such as movement and dance classes is one of the best ways to ease the overall process.

How often, and what to do every day?

There are no clear-cut rules to be followed by patients with Parkinson’s disease that underline the frequency and intensity of exercise every day. However, incorporating certain tasks in everyday life can help individuals reach the level of exercise required in terms of quality and quantity.

Molding your everyday schedule according to the following tips will meet the requirements of the desirable frequency of daily exercise for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

  • If you are not going for dedicated exercising sessions several times a week, it is best to increase the time you spend in walking, instead of remaining inactive or using other means of transportation.
  • Taking the stairs as frequently as possible may help increase the flexibility of joints and provide a good source of exercise.
  • No matter how often you exercise, patients with Parkinson’s disease should always take frequent and regular breaks of 5 minutes, most preferably, after every 30 minutes.
  • As much as it is important to exercise every day, staying inactive for longer periods being involved in activities such as watching TV or using computer is strongly discouraged. No matter how often you exercise, staying inactive nullifies the positive effects of your efforts spent in exercise.

Cool-Down Period for Patients with Parkinson’s

Although, it is beneficial to follow a regular exercise pattern every day, patients with Parkinson’s disease also need to take into account the major physiological changes in their body, over the course of the disease. The decreased body movements, compromised cardiocasular system, and disturbed psychological state, limits the requirements of how often they should exercise. While exercise is a proven therapy for patients with Parkinson’s disease, regular cool-down sessions are also very important for them.

After every session of exercise, patients should allow a longer cooling down time, as compared to normal individuals. Similarly, people who used to exercise before developing Parkinson’s disease should change their exercise plan accordingly. The importance of cooling down period is two folds:

  • It helps to decrease the heart rate slowly. This is specifically important for patients with Parkinson’s disease because of the compromised functioning of their cardiovascular system.
  • It helps the muscles to cool down gradually, which prevents muscle stiffness, a major complaint of people with Parkinson’s disease.

How often you exercise in Parkinson’s disease should depend on the question of ‘how good do you feel?’ Work hard and push yourself, but don’t over do it. After you exercise, monitor how you feel for the rest of the day and the day after. Gradually you will discover the proper volume of exercise, which will allow you improve your function and manage your symptoms more effectively.


Diet, nutrition and exercise tips for Parkinson’s


Diet Tips

While there are no special dietary requirements for patients with Parkinson’s disease, several dieting tips that relieve the patients of the symptoms can prove to be helpful.

Diet with Medication

The common medication for patients with Parkinson’s disease is a combination of Levodopa and Carbidopa, often under the brand name, Sinemet. There are certain diet tips that can help facilitate a stronger effect of the medicine. Generally, the stomach should be kept empty while taking Levodopa, for best results. This is because, on an empty stomach, the medicine is more efficiently absorbed.

Nutritional Strategies to Control Nausea

Nausea is one of the most common symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Some dietary habits can help in relieving the patients of this symptom.

  • Make it a habit to drink lots of chilled drinks. Drinks that are cold and rich in sugar may help settle the stomach, thus preventing nausea. In addition, patients are advised to drink the beverages slowly and between meals, instead of during them.
  • People with Parkinson’s disease should avoid eating acidic food and fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits. This diet makes the stomach more acidic, which further worsens the symptom of nausea.
  • The best way to control nausea is to eat light and bland food. Avoid anything too heavy or rich in calories in one meal.
  • Sometimes, patients with Parkinson’s disease complain of nausea after eating hot food, therefore, including cold items in your diet will work best in relieving the symptoms.

Tips to help you Eat

Often times, patients with Parkinson’s disease complain that they do not feel like eating. Here are certain tips to help you gain valuable nutrition with few meals.

  • Drinking beverages after meals, instead of before or during meals, will help you eat properly so that your stomach does not feel full before you start eating.
  •  If you can only manage to eat one meal in a day, try eating food with good nutritional value in your first meal, so that even if you skip the other meals, you do not feel lethargic due to lack of food energy.
  • Exercise works best if you give a few minutes for a warm-up session before starting the routine.
  • Patients of Parkinson’s disease, usually pay attention to the exercise of the limbs. However, considerable amount of time should be spent in exercising the facial muscles and the jaw. Furthermore, exercising the vocal cord muscles should also be included in the routine.
  • In worst cases of Parkinson’s disease, it is generally very difficult to gather energy for exercise. Water exercises may be helpful, in this regard, because they are easier on the joints and require less balance.
  • It is much simpler to exercise, if you include a hobby in your routine that demands physical activity, for example, gardening, dancing, and swimming.
  • Lastly, always choose a safe environment for exercise.

Exercise Tips

  • Exercise works best if you give a few minutes for a warm-up session before starting the routine.
  • Parkinson’s requires the patients to take breaks. If your exercise routine lasts for 30 minutes and that seems daunting, divide it into three sessions of 10 minutes each.
  • Patients of Parkinson’s disease, usually pay attention to the exercise of the limbs. However, considerable amount of time should be spent in exercising the facial muscles and the jaw. Furthermore, exercising the vocal cord muscles should also be included in the routine.
  • In worst cases of Parkinson’s disease, it is generally very difficult to gather energy for exercise. Aquatic exercises may be helpful, in this regard, because they are easier on the joints and require less balance.
  • It is much simpler to exercise, if you include a hobby in your routine that demands physical activity, for example, gardening, dancing, and swimming.
  • Lastly, always choose a safe environment for exercise.


How Exercise Can Improve Your Ability To Perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Activities of Daily Living or ADLs can be severely compromised because of injuries, surgeries or old age related diseases. Several physical therapy programs and training facilities offer fitness exercises to increase an individual’s independence. Occupational therapists are the best medical personnel to help improve performance in ADLs.

Improved Quality of Life

According to experts, there is a huge difference between physical activities and exercise. Intensive activities that involve strength are usually called exercise. However, physical activities are just body movements requiring energy expenditure. Exercises improve the quality of life by decreasing physiological changes that limit movement patterns. It also targets the overall cognitive health, aiming to improve a person’s overall mental status. This enhances the performance, balance, agility and ambulation of a person to help them improve their performance in ADLs.

Exercises Target the Working of the Central Nervous System

The hampered body movements require restructuring of the central nervous system to perform the ‘forgotten’, complex movement patterns. Therefore, simple exercises such as walking and weight bearing are useless in this regard.

Individually tailored exercises have shown tremendous success in improving ADLs because they target the mechanism in which the nervous system works. All locomotive functions of the body are closely synchronized with the brain and spinal cord. They work on the phenomenon of kinetic movement chains. Exercises aiming to develop the kinetic movement chain specific to a particular activity, work best in yielding the most desirable results. Over the course of training, the body muscles and every part of the nervous system such as the brain and spinal cord are rewired to perform these activities, thus, improving the ADLs.

Remarkable Improvement in Older Patients

Exercises for older patients have also proved their worth in improving their ability to perform ADLs. Previously, exercises rendered older patients vulnerable to subsequent injuries due to an increase in fall rate. However, safety precautions taken during such training programs help reduce such dangers.

Recent research studies on the effects of exercise on ADLs of old patients with Alzheimer’s disease further elaborate on their importance. The participants, in a study for the effects of exercise on ADLs, were divided into three groups.  The control group just received community care, whereas the second group received an hour of home-based exercise. The third group received an intensive group work-out session together with an hour of exercise. The results clearly showed a remarkable improvement in the overall movement patterns of the individuals belonging to the groups that were made to exercise, thereby, increasing their ability to perform ADLs.

Exercise is not only recommended when you have compromised movement patterns due to an illness, injury or old age. ADLs are constant requirement in daily life and lack of proper exercise may lead to reduced physiological conditions such as cardiovascular problems and increased body weight. These problems, overtime, affect your ability to perform ADLs in later stages of life. Therefore, it is essential to regularly exercise and keep your body fit for improved performance in ADLs.


How You Can Feel Better Today with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease does not only affect the quality of life but also seriously deteriorates a patient’s outlook to life. Their sense of worth, drive to fight the disease and social confidence are all seriously affected. While it is a physician’s job to look after the core symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, several studies show that holding the right attitude and will power are most effective. The key to feeling better in Parkinson’s disease is to incorporate self-treatment plans and a determination to fight back.

unnamed (2)Alternative Therapies

The advantage of adopting complementary therapies is their holistic approach in treating the disease. Parkinson’s disease has no specific cure; therefore, use of complementary therapies may help patients in controlling some of their symptoms. There is no guarantee of a clear-cut treatment plan with such therapies. However, these therapies indirectly work by alleviating some of the most common in-direct symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as insomnia, poor eating habits and constipation.

Stress Management

Feeling better in any sort of disease requires exercising your brain to stay happy. Patients with Parkinson’s disease should learn to cope up with the disease, without taking mental and physical stress. This surprisingly improves the quality of life a great deal. Episodes of meditation and deep breathing help to retain positive energy and help patients manage stress.

Continuing work

Most patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease decide to retire immediately. This does not only elevates depression but also suddenly leaves them inactive. To feel better in Parkinson’s disease is to ‘act normal’. It is advised that patients should continue with their work if the situation is still manageable. Of course, if patients cannot handle a demanding work life, they should look for alternative ways to ease their workload and distribute their responsibilities to others. This does not only keep the patients active but also gives them; much needed exercise, in Parkinson’s disease.

Being Sexually Active

Sexual activities are a common part of daily life; however, most patients with Parkinson’s disease quit intimacy and sexual activities out of embarrassment or feeling of worthlessness. Making the patients feel better in Parkinson’s disease is to make them feel normal. The partners of patients with Parkinson’s disease, who are sexually active, should help boost their confidence. They should remain sexually active to uplift their self-esteem and eventually reducing depression.

Serious Conditions

In more serious conditions of Parkinson’s disease, it is helpful to design the layout of certain areas at home in a recognized pattern for patients. For example, arranging the most commonly used things in the kitchen, bathroom etc. may help them exercise, and be independent in using them. Furthermore, in serious conditions, falling remains the biggest threats for patients in Parkinson’s disease. This can be reduced by using customized shoes with soles that help prevent incidences of falls. The best techniques to make patients of Parkinson’s disease feel better are individually tailored. However, under all circumstances a positive outlook with a determination to tackle the disease, matters the most, to make patients feel better in Parkinson’s disease.

Is Exercise A Cure For Parkinson’s?

Although, exercise helps patients living with Parkinson’s, by improving their body movement, range of motion, and reducing muscle stiffness, recent studies have also shown its impact on the neurochemical processes. Physical exercises may affect the brains of patients living with Parkinson’s diseases that directly help reduce the most common symptoms.

Recent research [1] has shown experiments on mice, undergoing physical exercise and the resulting changes in their brains. These mice were involved in exercises similar to human treadmill conditions. The changes found in the brain of these mouse models provide very useful techniques in alleviating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease with the help of exercise.

The studies revealed interesting molecular and cellular processes that provide useful hints on how exercise can be the cure for Parkinson’s disease in the near future.

IMG_6526More Efficient Use of Dopamine in Brain Cells

Although, mouse models did not show significant increase in the levels of dopamine or neurons in their brains, the group of mice undergoing physical exercise showed their brain cells using dopamine more efficiently. The key clinical problem in Parkinson’s disease is the decrease in levels of dopamine hampering the body’s range of motion. These results show how exercise can be a secret cure for Parkinson’s disease.

Modification of Areas Receiving Dopamine Signals

In addition, researchers have found that mouse models undergoing physical exercise demonstrated positive modifications in the basal ganglia and substantia niagra of the brain. These are the areas of the brain where the dopamine signals are received, hence, improving the overall efficiency due to exercise.

Molecular Processes Trigger by Exercise

The same research study 1 also illustrates the molecular processes triggered due to exercise that prevents worsening of the condition of patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Dopamine that travels across two neurons through a space called synapse is inhibited due to a protein molecule called dopamine transporter. The interesting inference in this study was that constant exercise in mouse models decrease the concentration of such dopamine transporters. This helped dopamine stay in the synapse longer, thereby, allowing the dopamine signals to last longer.

Secondly, a breakthrough finding in this research revealed that constant exercise in mouse models increased the number of D2 receptors in the brain. These receptors are binding sites for dopamine to achieve transmission of signals. This led to stronger signals in models undergoing frequent exercise.

Another Research study[2] provides explanation of how exercise can be a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Their study shows an increase in neurotrophic factors, more specifically GDNF (glial-derived neurotrophic factor) due to exercise. This reduces the vulnerability of the dopamine neurons to be damaged causing Parkinson’s disease or further worsening the state of Parkinson’s.

These research studies target the brain’s ability of constantly changing in terms of molecular and chemical processes leading to variations in mood, memory, learning etc. Although, exercise is a good therapeutic recommendation for patients with Parkinson’s disease, it is now also being explored to enhance the release of dopamine, which may be a cure for Parkinson’s disease in future.

[1] University of Southern California (Fisher et al.)

[2] University of Pittsburgh (Michael J. et al.)