The process of slowing down Parkinson’s disease by preventing further death of Dopamine-producing cells is called “Neuroprotection”. There are no approved medications for neuroprotection. However, there are many candidate drugs and many things you can try to slow down Parkinson’s disease.
1. Stay Active:
Multiple studies have demonstrated that moderate levels of physical activity reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease. The largest such study is a Swedish study that studied more than 43,000 patients over 12 years! (Yang 2015). Physical activity can improve many of the movement problems caused by Parkinson’s disease, especially balance (Dibble 2009). Also, physical activity can improve many other non-movement symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease, such as Thinking & Memory! (Tanaka 2008).
Although only a few studies have been listed here for reference, the evidence in support of exercise having a beneficial effect is extremely robust. Many prominent publications have highlighted physical activity as being an essential component of treatment in early Parkinson’s disease (Ahlskog 2011). Consider reading this article by Dr. Ahlskog in detail: Click here: Vigorous physical exercise may be neuroprotective (Alshkog 2011)
Now that, hopefully, I have convinced you that physical exercise can benefit you tremendously, the next question is – what kind of exercise? I recommend that you exercise in two ways:
- Aerobic exercise – Walk for 30 minutes everyday. If possible, walk for 30-40 minutes every day and make it brisk. Vigorous exercise – or aerobic physical activity for 20-30 minutes that increases the heart rate and the need for oxygen – is thought to be more protective than light exercise.
Therefore, brisk walking or a jog might be better than leisurely walking – Although both are infinitely more beneficial than doing nothing.
- Balance training – This is best learnt from a Physical therapist. Patients with Parkinson’s disease are at high risk for falls. They can fall because their feet get “stuck” to the ground. Also, Parkinson’s disease patients can fall because the normal postural reflexes that prevent falling are impaired. Balance training is a set of exercises that can help you maintain a better balance.
I will post a small video on balance training soon, but until that time you can meet your neighborhood physiotherapist to learn these exercises or follow the exercises posted on Mayo clinic’s website (click here) You may want to explore Yoga or Tai-Chi, many of the Yoga exercises emphasize balance. Remember: Only do the exercises you feel safe doing.
- Physical exercise reduces risk of Parkinson’s disease (Yang 2015)
- Exercise improves balance in Parkinson’s disease patients (Dibble 2009).
- Exercise improves thinking in Parkinson’s disease patients (Tanaka 2008).
- Vigorous physical exercise may be neuroprotective (Alshkog 2011)
- Balance exercises : Mayo Clinic website.
2. Prevent Injuries:
This one should be obvious. All measures should be taken to prevent Parkinson’s disease patients from falling down and breaking bones.
When it is hot outside, you wear a cap. When the ground is rough, you wear shoes. So if you are unsteady, you should use a cane, preferably one with multiple legs (picture below). There is no shame in using a cane, it should be as natural as wearing a cap in the hot sun.
Physical exercise & balance training (see above) can help a lot in preventing falls.
Patients with Parkinson’s disease should have their Vitamin D levels monitored. If they are at high risk for falls, the doctor will do a Bone density or DEXA test – these topics are covered in another article.
Dr. Siddharth Kharkar
Dr. Kharkar is a Neurologist, Epilepsy specialist & Parkinson’s disease specialist in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. He has trained in the best institutions in India, US and UK including KEM hospital in Mumbai, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), USA & Kings College in London.