- Written by Robert W. Smith Robert W. Smith
What should you do when you’re diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease?
Author and Parkinson’s patient Robert W. Smith, author of The Parkinson’s Playbook, offers the following 10 guidelines for effectively managing your diagnosis.
Understand your diagnosis. Take a deep breath and ask what stage you are and what symptoms were used to make the diagnosis.
Based on your condition, determine which medications are recommended and their side effects. Ask about alternative natural treatments for Parkinson’s (versus traditional medicine) and their availability.
Ask what type of lifestyle changes slow down Parkinson’s, such as level of fitness, the role of exercise, and what types.
Form a team. You cannot do it alone. From physicians to family, it takes teamwork and specialists to put Parkinson’s on the defense.
Know your medications. There are two basic categories of Parkinson’s medications: dopamine agonist and carbidopa/levodopa.
Over time, the type and dosage of your Parkinson’s medications will change as effectiveness evolves. Pay special attention to any compulsive behavior changes that arise from how the medication is interacting with your basic physical and mental makeup.
Work on postural alignment. Better known as posture, this can be improved by sitting up straight with your shoulders back, chest out, and head back.
Remind yourself every day to be conscious of your posture, and over time you will see a difference.
Standing tall with your shoulders back presents the image that you are Parkinson’s-free. People will notice your improved posture and it will have a positive impact on your attitude.
Follow a fitness plan. The goal of a fitness plan is to have a body that is lean, flexible, and strong.
The ideal fitness plan encompasses a variety of exercises for the entire body. Going to the gym five days a week for two hours will enable you reach an ideal level of fitness.
Make for a safe home. The first priority is to make your home safe to move around in by keeping walkways clear of obstructions, as well as removing rugs or other floor obstacles that are tripping hazards.
Install grab bars and railings where there are critical areas of movement or changes in direction.
Pay attention to nutrition. A balanced diet is important to provide your body with the fuel and strength necessary to deal with Parkinson’s.
Ideally, meals should be spread out throughout the day to provide a steady flow of nutrients. Snacks of nuts, fruits, and berries supply a boost during the day. Reducing alcohol consumption, sugar, and fried foods will also benefit your health.
Get a good night’s sleep. Nighttime sleep is critical for the body to restore and rejuvenate the energy needed for the continual fight with Parkinson’s.
Unbroken sleep for seven to eight hours is a necessity and does not include daytime naps.
Master the mental and emotional game. One of the hardest parts of Parkinson’s is dealing with depression, stress, and anxiety. Patients are constantly barraged with negativity throughout the day, from the Parkinson’s itself to the news to diminishing physical and cognitive influences.
One way to combat this is through the field of positive psychology, which teaches us how to incorporate happiness into our lives on a daily basis.
Stay committed. Improving your health and daily life requires an unwavering commitment. The most important factor in putting Parkinson’s on the defense is to make a commitment to fitness and exercise on a daily basis. It will fuel your happiness and lead to a fuller life.
Robert W. Smith is the author of The Parkinson’s Playbook (https://goo.gl/WGNN44). Smith’s own diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease has inspired him to be a mentor to those suffering from the same condition. Smith is also a fellow in the American Society of Landscape Architects. He currently lives in Denver, Colo.