Can You Live A Long Life With Parkinson’s Disease? A Complete Guide

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The reason we can walk, jump, move, sleep, eat, etc., is because our brains are still functioning well. Dopamine is a part of the brain that controls movement and other functions, however, certain illnesses like Parkinson’s disease can weaken its ability.

As a result, there will be abnormal movement because the neurons that transmit signals to certain parts of the body produced by dopamine to enable movement are degenerating due to factors like genetics, age, environmental factors, etc. There are other problems associated with this disease, including how to prevent and manage them. Keep reading to find out. 

5 Early Signs Of Parkinson’s Disease: How To Recover?

Many signs of Parkinson’s disease can be inconvenient for victims, and some of them include:

Early Signs Of Parkinson's Disease

1. Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia)

It’s nice to be able to swallow foods easily, however, individuals with this disease might find it difficult to do so. Since Parkinson’s disease causes stiffness and rigidity of the muscles, the rhythmic muscles that enable swallowing might be compromised. Hence, swallowing food or liquid can be difficult, leading to choking or the sensation of food being stuck.

2. Hand Tremor At Rest

This is one symptom that was noticed in Muhammad Ali, the world heavyweight boxer of all time. As he retired and got older, we started noticing his hand was involuntarily shaking rhythmically. Even while he was walking, it was obvious and it made him look incompetent.

3. Shuffling Walk

Normally, humans are supposed to walk with one foot above the ground, followed by the other as the former touches the ground for balance. However, Parkinson’s disease can make it difficult to lift any foot above the ground, instead, the feet are being dragged on the ground to support movement, increasing the risk of falls.

4. Freezing Of Gait

People with this disease sometimes might suddenly find it hard to walk because their body isn’t responding. So, it freezes and they just feel helpless as their feet are stuck to the ground.

5. Decreased Arm Swing

Normally, our hands are supposed to swing while walking, but with Parkinson’s disease, there will decrease in such movement.

Causes Of Parkinson’s Disease

1. Viral Infections

Certain viruses like the H1N1 influenza virus can contribute to Parkinson’s disease. This virus can trigger inflammatory responses in the brain, resulting in neurodegeneration. 

2. Hormonal Changes

When there’s an imbalance of estrogen, a dominant female sex hormone that can also influence neurons that support movement, it can result in Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, since estrogen cannot help to produce and use dopamine as usual, there will be a deficiency of dopamine levels to support movement and coordination.

Also, estrogen has antioxidant properties for reducing oxidative stress that damages cells like neurons due to an increase in harmful molecules also known as free radicals. However, if the estrogen cannot perform optimally, oxidative stress will damage the neurons.

3. Iron Accumulation

While the brain needs iron to perform well, excessive consumption of iron foods may result in Parkinson’s disease. This is because it can cause oxidative stress and damage the neurons. 

4. Autoimmune Processes

The immune system is supposed to only attack threats like infection to protect the boy from harm. It also helps to treat injuries by clotting the blood of the affected area. However, sometimes, it might mistakenly attack healthy cells that are related to the neurons in the brain. Hence, victims of such may experience Parkinson’s disease.

Risk Factors Of Parkinson’s Disease

1. High Cholesterol Levels

Most people enjoy consuming foods that have high cholesterol and during their mid-age, this can be a bad idea. Research shows that there may be a link between high cholesterol and degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease. This is because high cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis that blocks the blood vessels, impeding the proper flow of oxygen to the brain.

Moreover, the genetic makeup of certain individuals might make them highly vulnerable to the impacts of high cholesterol in the body. High cholesterol can also play a role in systemic inflammation and oxidative stress that can later damage the brain neurons.

2. Exposure To Heavy Metals

Certain heavy metals can damage the neurons and cause degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease. This includes manganese and copper. Prolonged exposure to them due to your occupation can induce oxidative stress and reduce dopamine levels.

However, the genetic makeup of some individuals including health status can determine if they will be affected by these heavy metals or not.

3. Statin Use

Your doctor might prescribe a statin for you, a drug that helps to reduce cholesterol levels to improve cardiovascular health. While excess cholesterol in the body can cause Parkinson’s disease, a moderate amount helps to maintain cell membranes and enhance nerve cells in the brain.

The issue here is that statin might lower cholesterol levels than the amount needed by the brain, resulting in neurodegenerative processes. However, more research is needed to back this up.

How Can I Prevent Parkinson’s Disease

There is no guaranteed way to prevent this disease, however, lifestyle changes can help to reduce the likelihood of it.

  • Regular exercise will help to reduce the risk of developing the disease because it can naturally reduce cholesterol levels, obesity, etc. As a result, you won’t experience oxidative stress that can damage the neuron cells. 
  • Eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals will make you healthy, boost your dopamine levels, and reduce the chances of autoimmune processes that can cause Parkinson’s disease.
  • Avoid toxic environment that produces heavy metals, including certain medications. Moreover, ensure you consult your doctor if you notice early signs to manage the disease from the onset before it escalates. 

Takeaways

Parkinson’s disease can be a nightmare and quite an uncomfortable illness. Its early signs include difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), hand tremor at rest, shuffling walk, freezing of gait, decreased arm swing, etc. Its risk factors include high cholesterol levels, exposure to heavy metals, statin use, etc.

While there are no guaranteed ways to prevent it, certain lifestyle changes like regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, avoiding a toxic environment, certain medications, and consulting the doctor for treatment of early sign signs of the disease, and other required advice can reduce the risk of developing it.

References

  1. Goetz CG, Tilley BC, Shaftman SR, et al. Movement Disorder Society-sponsored revision of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (MDS-UPDRS): scale presentation and clinimetric testing results (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19025984/)Mov Disord. 2008;23(15):2129-2170.
  2. Golbe LI, Leyton CE. Life expectancy in Parkinson disease (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30381371/)Neurology. 2018;91(22):991-992.
  3. Zafar S, Yaddanapudi SS. Parkinson Disease (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470193/). [Updated 2021 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.

Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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