It is time to spread awareness and understanding of Parkinson’s Disease. This is a chronic condition affecting approximately one million people in the U.S. This is more than multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease combined. Every year in our country 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
The importance of National Parkinson’s Awareness Month is that it helps people to learn more about the symptoms, causes and treatments of this disease. Knowing more about Parkinson’s can help to work towards more research discoveries and treatments.
A few facts:
Men are more likely to have Parkinson’s than women.
Symptoms include tremors, balance issues, rigidity, freezing, microphagia (writing that gets smaller in size), mask-like expression (due to a reduction in involuntary facial movement) and problems with motor control.
The causes of Parkinson’s are still unknown, but researchers believe it is a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Though only 15-25% of people with Parkinson’s have a relative with the disease, those with first degree relatives have a slightly elevated risk of developing the disease. Environmental toxins may be a greater risk than any other factor. Rural living, well water, manganese and pesticides have been associated with an elevated risk of Parkinson’s. Scientists are quick to emphasize that although certain neurotoxins may be a risk factor, no single exposure to a particular chemical has been directly pinpointed as a cause.
Treating Parkinson’s disease is more about managing symptoms and slowing the progression than it is about “curing” this disease.
One thing we know for sure is that exercise is medicine for people living with Parkinson’s. Exercise is a physiological tool that protects neurons at risk or compromised, and guides brain health, protection, repair, and adaptation after a neurodegenerative process occurs…otherwise known as neuroplasticity. Once triggered by exercise, these physiological mechanisms have the potential to slow disease progression!
If you or someone you know lives with Parkinson’s Disease and have not yet investigated an exercise program, I encourage you/them to check out our local YMCA Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson’s Disease. This program was developed specifically for Parkinson’s disease, by someone who lives with it. The premise being that forced intense movement, like those of a boxer, will in fact slow the progression of many of the symptoms including bradykinesia, rigidity, and postural instability. Boxers train hand-eye coordination, speed of movement, flexibility, balance, core strength, agility, and rapid muscle fire. All these training skills are effective in slowing disease progression.
This program is highly effective and promotes social interaction and improved mood.
And it is just plain fun!
Susan Covey is the Acts Bayleigh Chase Fitness Director and Rock Steady Boxing Coach