Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease affects about 1 of 250 people older than 40, about 1 of 100 people older than 65, and about 1 of 10 people older than 80. It commonly begins between the ages of 50 and 79. Rarely, Parkinson’s disease occurs in children or adolescents.

When the brain initiates an impulse to move a muscle (for example, to lift an arm), the impulse passes through the basal ganglia (collections of nerve cells located deep within the brain). The basal ganglia help smooth out muscle movements and coordinate changes in posture. Like all nerve cells, those in the basal ganglia release chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that trigger the next nerve cell in the pathway to send an impulse. A key neurotransmitter in the basal ganglia is dopamine. Its overall effect is to increase nerve impulses to muscles. In Parkinson’s disease, nerve cells in part of the basal ganglia (called the substantia nigra) degenerate, reducing the production of dopamine and the number of connections between nerve cells in the basal ganglia. As a result, the basal ganglia cannot smooth out movements as they normally do, leading to tremor, loss of coordination, slow movement and a tendency to move less.

What causes Parkinson’s disease is unclear. Parkinson’s disease may result from abnormal deposits of synuclein (a protein in the brain that helps nerve cells communicate). These deposits, called Lewy bodies, can accumulate in several regions of the brain, particularly in the substantia nigra (deep within the cerebrum) and interfere with brain function. Lewy bodies often accumulate in other parts of the brain and nervous system, suggesting that they may be involved in other disorders. In Lewy body dementia, Lewy bodies form throughout the outer layer of the brain (cerebral cortex). Lewy bodies may also be involved in Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Parkinson’s disease results from degeneration in the part of the brain that helps coordinate movements.
  • Usually, the most obvious symptom is tremors that occur when muscles are relaxed.
  • Muscles become stiff, movements become slow and uncoordinated, and balance is easily lost.
  • Doctors base the diagnosis on symptoms.

Changes in lifestyle, drugs such as levodopa (some trade names: DOPAR, LARODOPA) and carbidopa (trade name: LODOSYN), and sometimes surgery help lessen symptoms, but the disease is progressive, eventually causing severe disability and immobility.  The supplement Brain Vitale™ by Designs for Health, a combination of brain revitalizing nutrients, can also enhance brain protection.

General Measures: Various simple measures can help people with Parkinson’s disease maintain mobility and independence:

  • Continuing to do as many daily activities as possible
  • Following a program of regular exercise
  • Simplifying daily tasks—for example having buttons on clothing replaced with Velcro fasteners or buying shoes with Velcro fasteners
  • Using assistive devices, such as zipper pulls and button hooks

Physical and occupational therapists can help people learn how to incorporate these measures into their daily activities, as well as recommend exercises to improve muscle tone and maintain range of motion. Therapists may also recommend mechanical aids, such as wheeled walkers, to help people maintain independence.

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