"Acceptance doesn't mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and there's got to be a way through it."
– Michael J Fox, activist, actor, icon, diagnosed with Parkinson's.
Parkinson disease (PD) is defined as a gradually progressive disease which causes the muscles to tighten and become rigid; most commonly involving slowing of movements, a tremor present at rest, and walking instability which can cause falls.1, 2
Not all PD cases but approximately 80% develop cognitive issues impacting thinking, behavior or memory. This is what is called Parkinson's disease dementia (PDD).
PDD has the same symptoms as PD but with the addition of cognitive complications. PDD has similarities to a related disease called Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) that also causes changes in thinking, behavior and movement, but in LBD the movement problems start after the thinking and behavior symptoms.
While like most dementia diseases, the incidence and prevalence increases with age, the national institute of health (NIH) has found that approximately 20% of our loved ones are diagnosed with PD are under 65.
IS IT GENETIC
Rarely. In about 10-15% of cases, it is found to be genetic. Most of the time it is sporadic and the cause is unknown.
IS THERE A CURE
No, at this time, there is no cure or treatment beyond comfort. Similar to other dementias, there are medications to manage the symptoms. There is hope with advancing research and advocacy.
Research shows lifestyle habits can reduce cognitive and physical decline, thereby reducing the risk of Parkinson's and other diseases which result in dementia. You have a lower risk if you keep your brain and heart active as you age (ex: learn a new skill, learn a language, play musical instruments). You can also decrease your risk of onset with
- Regular physical exercise
- Heart healthy eating
- Social interactions, community and intellectual stimulation such as learning a new hobby or language
- And last, but not least - regularly getting a good night's sleep.
Additionally, evidence has been linked between oxidative damage of nerve cells and PD, which has leaded to increased studies of antioxidants. For example, a 2002 study focused on the potential antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is believed to play an important role in mitochondria health. Mitochondria are the "powerhouses" of a cell. Some scientists think that abnormalities of mitochondrial function may play a role in PD.
The scientific evidence is not conclusive and research is still ongoing,
- Mediterranean Diet
- Natural supplements such as B vitamins to promote brain health and vitamin C and E for their oxidative qualities.
are being looked at as additional methods to treat the symptoms, slow the progress and increase comfort of our loved ones with PD or PDD.
The Parkinson’s Foundation provides more information on their website: https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Treatment/Over-the-Counter-and-Complementary-Therapies
Note: Links/URLs are great when they work, a huge annoyance when they don’t. They may update faster than we can catch them. To help keep up, in addition to the link, we’ve included the description of the location of the information to assist with good old fashioned web searching.
For disease overview and information:
- Memory and Aging Center, UCSF, Parkinson’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Foundation
- UCSF's Patient’s Guide to PD (PDF)
- Michael J. Fox's "Parkinson's 360" - A candid and relatable Guide for Navigating Parkinson's"
For caregiving support:
- The Family Caregiver Alliance, has a "navigator" for finding support across the US. https://www.caregiver.org/family-care-navigator
- The Parkinson’s Helpline: The Helpline is available at (800) 4PD-INFO (473-4636) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Research and clinical trial information: https://Clinicaltrials.gov
DID YOU KNOW… THREE FAST FACTS
- Impacts ~7 to 10 million of our loved ones worldwide, and about 1 million in the United States.
- Perspective: this is more than those affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophy (MD), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) combined (source: https://parkinsonsnewstoday.com/parkinsons-disease-statistics/)
- Typically occurs after the after of 65 but experts estimate ~20% are diagnosed earlier. For example, Michael J Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinsons at 29.
- Is often closely linked and overlaps with lewy body disease.
1 - Memory and Aging Center, UCSF, Parkinson's Disease
2 - John Hopkin's Medicine - Parkinson's Disease