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People with Parkinson’s disease can benefit from exercise

May 11, 2017

Parkinson's disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, which means that the symptoms continue to worsen over time.

Ahmedabad: Parkinson's disease is usually considered to be an older person's illness, but Rahul (name changed) was diagnosed with it when he was just 34. His symptoms began with him not being able to unlock his door or type correctly on his computer. As they increased, he developed a tremor while driving and had a car accident.

Parkinson is common neurodegenerative disease. Over 10 million people are living with Parkinson’s disease across the world. Even though the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease in India is less compared to other countries, because of its large population, India’s total burden is quite high. Surprising as it may be, Rahul is not the exception.

As we observe World Parkinson’s Day, doctors say it is important to educate people about early detection of the disease, comprehensive management and the positive impact exercise can have on overall wellness.

Doctors say symptoms of this disease increase with age, and only 4% people suffering from Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50.

“Till date, there is no standardized test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. The only way we are able to successfully diagnose people is by the clinical information provided by patients and results from neurological exams. Since this disease is considered to affect only older people, many of our diagnoses are of people who have had the disease for some years. What many people do not realize is that signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s can begin even in younger people. Those experiencing struggles in movement or coordination should come forward and get tested. Even though there is no cure, symptoms can be managed with medication and even exercise”, says Dr Hetal Parekh, Neurologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ahmedabad.

Parkinson's disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, which means that the symptoms continue to worsen over time. It involves the malfunction and death of vital neurons (nerve cells) in one section of the brain. This malfunction produces a chemical, dopamine that sends messages to that part of the brain which controls the body’s movement and coordination. As the disease progresses, the amount of dopamine produced decreases which makes people unable to control normal movements. The cause has remained unknown, and currently has no cure, but medication and surgery have proven to manage its symptoms.

Tremors in the limbs and face, slowness of movement, rigidity of limbs and trunk, and impaired balance and coordination are some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Small handwriting, loss of smell, trouble sleeping, constipation, dizziness or fainting is also associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Even though Parkinson’s disease affects a person’s ability to move, exercise helps keep muscles strong, increases flexibility and mobility. Progression of the disease cannot be stopped, but exercise can help preventing stiffening of joints and improves balance. The type of exercise that works best depends on a patient’s symptoms, fitness level, and overall health. Generally, exercises that stretch the limbs through the full range of motion are encouraged.

“We encourage patients to exercise regularly to keep their limbs functioning properly. The movement of joints allows oxygen into the muscles strengthening them. A minimum of 30 minutes a day has proven to be very beneficial in all Parkinson’s patients. We work closely with physical therapists to create personal exercise programs for all our patients depending on their requirements. Exercise not only improves a person’s well-being but also helps in reducing depression or anxiety” adds, Dr Parekh.

For people with Parkinson’s, moving around does not come as naturally as it once did. In order to increase your confidence moving, you have to move.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while exercising:

· Always warm-up before beginning your exercise routine and cool down at the end

·Exercise facial muscles, jaw, and voice whenever possible by singing or reading aloud, exaggerate your lip movements, and chew food vigorously

· Water aerobics and swimming are easier on the joints and require less balance

· Always work out in a safe environment to avoid any potential dangers

· Use support of a railing whenever required while practicing balancing postures. If standing up is a problem, exercise on a mat on the floor of even in bed

· Engage in activities or hobbies you enjoy like gardening, yoga, dancing, walking, or swimming to keep the muscles moving

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