Parkinson's Disease

Lifestyle Tips for People Living with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects about 1 million Americans (and 10 million around the world), making it the second most common disorder of its type. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) annually.

While PD is characterized by tremors, as well as trouble with balance and even speech, there are ways to improve quality of life through lifestyle adjustments. From becoming more confident with mobility to enhancing your diet, here are some tips for those living with the disease.

Find Balance

Staying on your feet can be a challenge for those with PD. However, University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Health has some simple suggestions to help. For example, it notes you should move slowly when changing positions, especially if you tend to feel lightheaded. It says to avoid pivoting to turn around, and instead “make a wide U-turn.”

The source also adds some tips for the morning routine. It suggests sitting on the side of the bed for 15-seconds before rising after you wake, and then stand for 15-seconds with a support before attempting to walk. “This can prevent dangerous falls,” it explains.

Move Regularly

Whether you have PD or not, exercise should be part of anyone’s lifestyle. However, if you do have PD, there are particular benefits to moving and stretching daily, such as achieving more muscle strength and improving your coordination, explains WebMD.

Some of the suggested exercises from the source include simple walking and stretching, as well as swimming, gardening, dancing, and Tai Chi. It advises to talk to your physician before starting an exercise regime, as they may pair you with a physical therapist to help assess the best activity for your fitness.

Enhance Your Diet

Frequent constipation is a reality for those living with PD. However, you can combat this by upping your intake of fruits and vegetables to get more fiber, which can aid in staying regular, explains the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA). Try some that are high in antioxidants such as blueberries and spinach, it adds.

The source also recommends that you get plenty of water throughout the day to help avoid muscle cramping and to stay properly hydrated. You should also focus on drinking other fluids that don’t have alcohol or caffeine, it adds. It says green tea is a good source of antioxidants, but be aware it may be caffeinated.

Reduce Stress

Many famous figures past and present have/had PD, including champion boxer Muhammad Ali and actor Michael J. Fox, who has a foundation for Parkinson’s research. While stress affects everyone, it can worsen PD symptoms and increase the risk of a “freezing episode” when you lose the ability to move temporarily, notes the foundation’s website.

Aside from getting regular exercise, the source also provides a guide that explains you should try mindfulness meditation and other relaxation breathing techniques. It notes you should identify things that stress you out and ask for help from family or colleagues when things get too rough.

Get Adequate Rest

The Parkinson’s Foundation touts a “good night’s sleep” is important for anyone, especially for those with PD as it allows the body more time to restore itself. However, the source also acknowledges that getting quality rest can be a challenge for those with the disease due to certain medications and changes in the brain related to PD.

To help counter this, the source suggests keeping a regular sleep schedule and avoiding watching television in bed. It also says you should minimize liquids a few hours before bed to avoid having to get up (and try to urinate right before you hit the sack). While exercise is important to help promote restful sleep, avoid doing any after 8 p.m. Also, don’t nap for more than an hour and not after 3 p.m., it adds. (Here are some more Sleeping Tips for Seniors).

Stay Positive

According to ParkinsonsDisease.net, maintaining a positive attitude can make living with PD “more tolerable.” While mood changes can be common with PD, the source says there are several ways to help your mindset such as maintaining social contact, getting outdoors regularly for some fresh air and sunshine, as well as listening to music you love.

Having a hobby is helpful – some suggestions include art projects such as drawing/sculpting that can also enhance fine motor skills. Baking, gardening, playing video games, singing and reading are other ideas from experts. Meanwhile, the source suggests keeping a gratitude diary/journal, and also to “have hope” by believing there will be a cure within your lifetime. It adds that while there is no cure, there have been advances in treatment especially when diagnosed early.

Build Your Support Network

The common consensus among experts is that you shouldn’t go it alone when it comes to living with PD. While you should try to maintain bonds with family and friends for camaraderie, WebMD says you might have to cast your net a little wider to get the support you need.

This means you can seek out support groups that are in-person or online to discuss the disease with others who have it. The source also suggests building your health team, which can include a physical or occupational therapist, as well as a massage therapist and acupuncturist (to ease pain and tension). A mental health professional can help you cope and rekindle your enjoyment in life when you’re feeling depressed, it adds.

Jeff Hayward

Jeff Hayward

Jeff has more than 15 years of experience writing professionally about health, travel and the arts among other subjects. He continuously looks to improve his own overall health through exercise, diet and mindfulness. He is also a proud stay-at-home dad that loves taking photographs both professionally and as a hobby.

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