What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s disease can be described as a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. It is caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in the substantia nigra, which is the part of the brain that controls movement. The nerve cells that have become impaired will stop producing dopamine. Dopamine is an important chemical that works with other neurotransmitters as a messenger to coordinate millions of nerve and muscle cells involved in body movements. Without dopamine, one will lose the ability to regulate not only the body but also emotions. As a result, symptoms of Parkinson’s such as tremor or trembling in parts of the body such as hands, arms, legs and jaw, muscle stiffness, impaired posture and balance, and slowed movement will begin to develop.
What are the risk factors of Parkinson’s?
The actual cause of the above-mentioned neurodegeneration that leads to Parkinson’s disease remains largely unknown. However, researchers have come up with theories that point to environmental toxins, oxidative damage, rapid ageing and genetics as contributing factors. The risk is higher for those who have close relatives with Parkinson’s disease. In 2020, The Parkinson’s Foundation research identified extremely rare genetic mutations linked to Parkinson’s disease based on genetic test results among their 291 participants.
Ageing is one of the main risk factors for Parkinson’s disease and obviously, there is nothing that we can do to slow down or stop this natural process. The risk of Parkinson’s disease increases with age and is most common in individuals above the age of 60. Even though there are possibilities for young-onset Parkinson’s disease that strike early (before the age of 40), the percentage is low and the progression of the disease is much slower.
Men are affected about two times more often than women. Researchers have yet to find a conclusive explanation as to why there is a difference in the rate of Parkinson’s disease between men and women. Various studies have been conducted to look into the possibility of the protective effect of estrogen in women; the higher rate of minor head trauma and exposure to occupational toxins in men and genetic susceptibility genes on the sex chromosomes.
Parkinson’s disease is not entirely avoidable and there is still no cure for it. The good news is, some treatments can help control the symptoms and maintain the patients quality of life. The risk of Parkinson’s disease could also be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and change of habits.
Healthy Eating Habit
Maintaining a good diet is always on the top of the list for all disease prevention. A healthy and well-balanced diet will help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease too. Consumption of food high in protein, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and good fats will help the body maintain its functions while drinking plenty of water significantly affects energy levels and brain function.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids is good to keep Parkinson’s at bay for their anti-inflammatory effect. Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent cell degeneration and death that leads to Parkinson’s disease. Cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines, certain brands of eggs, chia seeds and canola oil are some of the good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Green tea: Green tea is known for its many health benefits. It contains catechins that act as antioxidants to prevent cell damage that could lead to Parkinson’s disease. Green tea is also anti-inflammatory and able to help improve brain functions.
- The fresh greens: Dark green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, cabbage and broccoli are rich in vitamin B folic acid. Increasing its intake helps Parkinson’s disease prevention particularly the risks for young-onset.
- Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, peanut butter, pumpkin, red bell pepper and almonds are some of the good sources for vitamin E. Moderate to high levels of vitamin E in daily diets helps protect the brain from the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
- Go organic: Research has shown that Parkinson’s disease patients have higher levels of pesticides and herbicides in their brain. Opting for an organic diet helps keep Parkinson’s disease risk at bay. On top of that, organic produce is always a better choice for our bodies.
Get Some Sleep
During sleep, our body is resting but the brain continues to work similarly to when we put our computer on reboot. While we are asleep, the brain continues to consolidate memories, process information, make connections and clear up toxins. On average, an adult human needs to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Taking one or two naps in the daytime also helps. Not getting adequate amounts of sleep, in the long run, will potentially increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.
Lack of sleep can also result in stress. If left untreated, chronic stress will interrupt the protective function of the blood-brain barrier. It also has the long-term effect of being toxic to the brain and possibly decreases the production of dopamine that leads to Parkinson’s disease.
Get on Moving
Those who exercise more, regardless of the strenuous level, have a lower tendency in developing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Engaging in physical activities from moderate to vigorous for at least 150 minutes a week helps boost mental and physical health. Physical activity is highly recommended even to those who are currently fighting Parkinson’s disease. When combined with physiotherapy, exercise will improve motor skills and activities of daily living (ADL) functions and lead to a better general state of health.
- Tai Chi is a recommended form of martial art that helps in improving balance but it is not as vigorous as it sounds. Tai Chi is a series of slow-motion physical exercises and stretches that combines movement, meditation and breathing technique.
- Aerobic exercise is also highly recommended as it helps maintain good cognitive health. Regular aerobic exercise can reduce inflammation in the brain. In other words, aerobic exercise can prevent the inflammatory signals that lead to Parkinson’s disease. As a preventive measure, aerobic exercise is highly recommended for those with a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease between the age of 30 and 40.
Explore the Outdoor
Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D has been proven to be important in lowering the risk of Parkinson’s disease. This is based on studies that have proven that half of the people diagnosed with the disease are deficient in vitamin D. It serves the function as absorbent to calcium and phosphorus required by the body to function properly. Vitamin D is present in foods such as egg yolk, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, and orange juice, but sunlight remains the best source for it. Daily exposure of 15 to 30 minutes outside under the sunlight is highly recommended.
While spending time outdoors in the sun is good for the body, be careful of exposure to toxins that may be directly responsible for triggering Parkinson’s. Neurotoxins are present in pesticides, solvents, metals and cigarette smoke. Avoiding exposure to toxins outdoors helps preserve overall and brain health.
Preventing Head Injuries
Serious head injury may lead to Parkinson’s disease later on in life. Brain trauma is known to affect short and long term memory, balance and cognition. Even repeated low impacts to the head add up resulting in similar damage to the brain functions. Serious brain injury that leads to unconsciousness or amnesia further increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Losing consciousness for five minutes or longer doubles up the chances. When a head injury occurs, it sets in motion a series of damaging pathological changes including the loss of dopamine-producing molecules.
Thus, it is always best to keep the home safe, especially for the seniors. Hiring a full-time caregiver is highly recommended but simple steps such as removing throw rugs and installing proper lighting and grab rails help prevent the risk of fall that may cause a head injury.
Managing Medical Problems
Like a head injury, failure to manage common medical problems can lead to Parkinson’s disease later in life. Obesity, for instance, will triple the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease in midlife. This is because obesity may alter the level of dopamine in the brain. Aside from that, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL and inflammation may also contribute to the disease.
All chronic physical pain that is bad for your brain must be managed earlier on. Just like any other disease, your best bet to prevent Parkinson’s is by adopting a brain-healthy, proactive lifestyle. If you incorporate the above diet and lifestyle tips into your routine, it will prove to be highly beneficial in keeping Parkinson’s disease at bay. Of course, despite Parkinson’s disease preventive measures, there is no guarantee of safety against it, but prevention is better than cure at the end of the day.
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