10 things that can help you cope with your new diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease

Many bloggers write about what you can do to cope with a new diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. We all have a different take on the issue, so if you have just been diagnosed, look for other blogs with similar titles. As they say in the Parkie world, we are like snowflakes, no two of us are alike. Each one of us has different symptoms and responds differently to medications and therapy. By reading several different blogs, you will get a broader perspective about your new companion, PD, which will be at your side for many years to come. So here are some of my suggestions for living well with Parkinson’s.

You have just been diagnosed. You walk out of the doctors office in a state of shock and the reality of it doesn’t sink in until after you get home. So many unanswered questions and your next appointment is 6 months or more away. What can you do?

Well, there are actually a lot of things that you can do before you see your doctor that will help you understand your new constant companion and to feel better about it. Before you do anything else, try to make a follow up appointment sooner if possible. Make sure that you bring someone with you who can help ask questions and take notes for you. Prepare a list of questions to take with you. We all forget to ask key questions if we don’t write them down. Click here for a worksheet from Health Monitor that you can use (scroll down the page to get to it).

Twitchy Woman’s 10 recommendations for the newly diagnosed:

1. Exercise. I can’t stress this enough. Exercise has been shown to be the most effective way to combat the effects of PD. If you are already exercising, good for you. See if you can increase your level of activity – the more you push yourself, the better the results. If you have not been exercising, start slowly. Walk around the block. Add distance and speed as it becomes more comfortable for you. Add different types of exercise to your routine. Varying what you do on a daily basis is good for your brain and your body. Most importantly, find what you enjoy doing. If you don’t like it, you won’t do it. My exercise routine is a combination of Boxing for PD, regular yoga classes, tennis and a Peloton bike.

2. Continue to do what you did before your diagnosis. PD may eventually slow you down, but for now, don’t let it stop you.

3. A good diet. Check Dr. Laurie Mischley’s website for recommendations for a Parkie diet.

4. Get out of the house. Loneliness is the #1 cause for a rapid decline with PD.

5. Find a mentor with PD. Ask your doctor if he/she can recommend someone living well with Parkinson’s who you can talk to. We have all been in your shoes and understand what you are going through. A mentor can answer your questions and be there for you when you need a friend.

6. Go to a support group. This may not be your thing, but try it anyway. There are a lot of different types of support groups out there and you may find new friends with PD who will become your support system.

7. Find a class for Parkies – boxing, dance, yoga, etc. The best way, in my opinion, to find your way through the maze of PD. The people you meet in these classes will become an important part of your support system. They know what you are going through. It also keeps you from being isolated (see #3) and gives you something to look forward to.

8. Go online and look for a few blogs and websites that you can trust and relate to. Beware of those trying to sell you a “cure”. Some good websites to start with are Michael J Fox Foundation, Parkinson’s Foundation and Davis Phinney Foundation. For a list of blogs I like, click on the Resources tab.

9. Read a good book about PD. Click on the My Books and Things I Like page (above) for recommendations. Two books I will recommend you start with are Parkinson’s? You’re kidding me, right? One woman’s unshakeable belief in overcoming a shaky diagnosis! by Sheryl Jedlinski andBrain Storms: The Race to Unlock the Mysteries of Parkinson’s Disease by Jon Palfreman. And order Every Victory Counts” from the Davis Phinney Foundation. It is free and a good resource.

10. Go to an educational program about PD. The 3 foundations above all sponsor educational programs, as well as The American Parkinson’s Disease Association and local Parkinson’s groups.

I hope that this will help. The most important thing for you to know is that you are not alone on your journey with PD. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me or to others with Parkinson’s Disease. We are there to help you.

More thoughts on the WPC: Diet and Nutrition

 

One of the best sessions I attended was Microbiome and the Diet in PD. There were many sessions this year that focused on Microbiomes and the theory that alpha-synuclein actually starts its devastating journey in the gut and eventually travels upward to the brain in PD.

The first speaker, Dr. Viviane Labrie, of the Van Andel Institute, addressed this issue. She says that constipation or GI tract problems can occur up to 20 years before motor symptoms. Alpha synuclein aggregates may be stored in the Appendix, and you can actually see it go up the GI tract to the Vagal nerve and into the brain. Studies show that everyone has this aggregate in the Appendix, but there is 3 times more in people with PD.

The second speaker, Dr. Pascal Derkinderen stated that Parkinsons is a GI disorder, with many slides to prove his point.

But the highlight of the program for me was Laurie K Mischley, ND, MPD, Phd, from Bastyr University.   She says that nutritional needs are different for each person. According to Dr. Mischley, diet is what you put in your body, including toxicants. Unfortunately, in addition to other issues,  malnutrition is a huge problem in PD, with a much higher incidence than in the general population

Dr. Mischley’s goal in her ongoing study is to look for things in your diet that influence your progression on the PRO-PD score. The average person starts at about 580 and progresses about 50 points per year. This usually correlates with patient perceived quality of life.  You can find out your PRO-PD score here.

What can you do to improve your outlook with PD? She cited one simple example to illustrate her point: she found that PwPs eating 4 cups of vegetables a day do better than those eating just 2 cups.

If you are 20 years into your disease, you can still change the rate of progression if you change your diet. The earlier you start the more impact a change in diet will have. She says that organic food does significantly decrease the pro-Pd score. Look at the next slide to see which foods will have a negative impact on your progression of PD.

Finally, Dr. Mischley says that social health is a nutrient. Someone who gets out and socializes usually does better. Isolation is a major problem.  Studies have shown that loneliness is single biggest cause of Pd progression.  People with friends do much better on the Pro-PD scale.  Those who are lonely, fail to thrive.

See my photos of the slides below for more information.  Or go to Dr. Mischley’s website to learn about her research.

More tomorrow…..

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Continue reading “More thoughts on the WPC: Diet and Nutrition”

Keeping your Parkinson’s under control when your life isn’t

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

African Proverb

It seems that once you think everything is under control, something happens to set you back. You are feeling so good about how you are doing, that you forget that you have limits and take on too much to do. (I admit that I am way too guilty of this). Parkinson’s lies in wait until you make that misstep and will suddenly torment you and increase the severity of your symptoms, or bring you a new set of symptoms to deal with.

On the other hand, maybe life is out of control. You have been doing too much and not taking care of yourself. You moved, your child got married, you suffered a loss. You may have felt organized at first, but at some point you realized you are in over your head. You just can’t do everything the way you used to without feeling it afterwards.

You find it hard to make plans because you just don’t know how you are going to feel any given day. One day you feel great, the next night you don’t sleep and fatigue keeps you down the next day.

Finally, You miss exercise for a couple of weeks because you are sick, on vacation or you just don’t have the time. At some point you realize that your tremor has been getting slightly worse every day, or you have become much stiffer. You feel as if you are on a downward spiral. Your meds are not working as well as they should, but you really don’t want to increase the dose. You just don’t feel good, and it is difficult to explain exactly what is troubling you.

What do you do to get out of a downward spiral?

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1. Learn to say “no”. Get help where you need it. At home and/or at work. Don’t take on a new project that you know will be overwhelming. It’s ok to slow down a little. I know its hard – I am guilty of overdoing it, pretty much all the time. But remember, you are living with a chronic disease that won’t go away because you are too busy to acknowledge its presence.

2. Take a deep breath – practice breathing exercises, meditation. Parkies tend to be shallow breathers. Get some more oxygen to your brain and clear up the fuzziness between your ears.

3. Get back into your exercise routine. But don’t expect miracles immediately. It took time to get to where you are, so it is going to take some more time to get back in shape and feel the benefits of exercise on your brain again.

4. Get adequate sleep. 4 hours a night is not enough. 7-8 is ideal. However, the last time I think Mr. Twitchy and I ever slept that long was probably in college. We have forgotten how to sleep at night. I have tried sleepy time tea, meditation, yoga for sleep, no iPads, playing games on iPads in the middle of the night hoping to fall asleep, weighted blankets (which do help to some extent) various forms of CBD, etc. etc. It’s ok to take a sleeping pill for a few nights to break the pattern, or at least get a decent amount of sleep for a couple of nights so that you are not a zombie all of the time. Check with your doctor about sleep medications that may be right for you.

5. Get support from your family, friends and PD friends. Let them know how you are feeling and that you need some extra help for a little while. Don’t be a martyr.

6. Check your diet. Are you eating too much protein too close to taking your meds? Has the sugar monster has taken over your diet? If you are not sure what you should be eating, a Mediterranean diet is always a good place to start. Or check with a nutritionist. Dr. Laurie Mischley has done a lot of research on Parkinson’s and diet. Go to her website for more information

And if none of these things help, know that you are not alone. There are always Parkies on-line somewhere who are not sleeping either and are happy to chat in the middle of the night and commiserate with you.

I finally met Parky friends who I had met online, and it reinforced the fact that our common bond of Parkinson’s brings us together – and that we provide unconditional support for each other.

Twitchy Woman was featured today on Parkinson’s Life, a website for Parkies in Europe and beyond. Check out my WPC Diary here.

Can You Live Well With PD?

With the World Parkinson’s Congress coming up in June, I have been considering submitting an abstract for the Poster Display at the Congress.  One of the categories for submission is “Living Well With Parkinson’s Disease”.  I started thinking about what works for me to live well with PD, and then decided to ask the 950+ members of a Women with PD Facebook group that I participate in, what works for them.  On line, we often discuss different symptoms, medications, responses to medications, etc.  But the women in this group also like to talk about the positive things in their lives.

In one long term study,  Complementary & Alternative Medicine Care in Parkinson’s Disease, (CAM Care in PD), Dr. Laurie Mischley, of Bastyr University, is looking at people who are living well with PD with the hope of finding dietary and lifestyle factors associated with a slower disease progression.  The twice annual survey asks about your diet, exercise, medications, alternative treatments, etc.   If you are not familiar with her work, click on the link above to find out more about it and to sign up for her study.

I decided to take a slightly different angle and ask the women what THEY think hedownload.jpglps them to live well with Parkinson’s.  So I posted the following to the FB group in November:

Please list the top 3 things that help YOU to live well with Parkinson’s. Then the flip side – the top 3 things that are obstacles for you:
For example:
Positive: Exercise, Advocating for myself with my doctors, Friendships with other women with PD. 
Negative: Poor sleep, Tremor gets in the way of doing things, Daytime fatigue

This is by no means a scientific study.  As a blogger, I like to poll my readers occasionally on a topic that interests me.  I look for trends in order to write about a topic.   For this poll,  I have about 60 responses so far,and it became clear very quickly that Exercise in any form is the most positive factor for living well.  Friendships with other women with PD is also very important to them.  Having friends with PD means that they have someone who knows how they are feeling and understands what they are going through.  Interestingly, Family-including a supportive spouse- and Faith were tied for third.

On the negative side, Sleep problems, including insomnia, fatigue and more, was the overwhelming winner.  Balance and Gait problems were second and Anxiety was third.

The one thing that was missing is “Staying Active”.  Only a few people mentioned anything related to this.  I realized that it was an important missing piece when I read Blogger Sherri Woodbridge’s Nov. 28 post in Parkinson’s News Today

She says:  Being active involves more than movement on your part. It includes a state of mind to persevere, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and to not give up even when you feel like quitting.

I could not say it better than this, and yes, this is the one thing that keeps me going.  Since my husband retired 7 years  ago, we have traveled extensively around the world.  We go to the symphony, theater and sporting events, often with friends.  We are active in our community and spend time with our children and grandchildren.  And we both find time to exercise almost daily.  He plays golf, I still play tennis.  Sitting home and doing nothing is not an option for us.  As a result, I do not feel the isolation and depression that plague many people with PD.   I also feel good physically most of the time.   My biggest problem is the fatigue from poor sleep.  But I don’t let that stop me.  I have learned my limits and will rest when I need to, especially when traveling.   10 years after my diagnosis, my progression is still slow and I have not had to change my lifestyle very much.

We are fortunate that today that our doctors encourage exercise and being active, something that Parkinson’s people were discouraged from doing in the not too distant past.  For many of us, living an active life and exercise are the most important things that will make our lives better with PD.  Even if you have limited mobility, try to get out and and do things, even if it is just going to a movie.  You will find that the more you go out and do things you enjoy, the better you will feel.

If you would like to participate in my informal survey,  please send an email to me at twitchywoman18@gmail.com.  This is for all people with Parkinson’s only.  No caregivers, please.

Please list the top 3 things that help YOU to live well with Parkinson’s. Then the flip side – the top 3 things that are obstacles for you:
For example:
Positive: Exercise, Advocating for myself with my doctors, Friendships with other women with PD. 
Negative: Poor sleep, Tremor gets in the way of doing things, Daytime fatigue

 

Finally, some guidelines for a Parkinson’s Diet

Dr. Laurie Mischley, of Bastyr University,  has been tracking People with Parkinson’s (PwP’s) for several years for her “CAM Care in PD” study.  When I spoke to her at the World Parkinson’s Congress last fall, she explained that this is the only study looking at how people are living with PD now and following them to see who is having a more positive outcome and why.   Data is collected with twice annual surveys sent to the participants.  Multiple models were used to examine the association between diet, lifestyle factors, and PD severity, with Patient Reported Outcome (PRO-PD) scores used as the outcome variable. She just released an abstract published in “Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity” on September 10.

I will not try to summarize the entire report.  You can read it here.  However, I will give you some of the key findings.

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The Good:

A plant- and fish-based diet, similar to a Mediterranean diet, is associated with the lowest PD severity score.  Fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, fish, olive oil, wine, coconut oil, fresh herbs, and the use of spices were all associated with statistically significant lower rates of disease progression.

The Bad:

Ice cream, cheese, and yogurt intakes were associated with higher rates of PD progression.

DIET SODA WAS ASSOCIATED WITH A FASTER RATE OF PD PROGRESSION

Consumption of canned fruits and vegetables was a strong predictor of PD progression. Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible.

Soda, specifically diet soda, was also associated with a faster rate of PD progression.

A few other things to stay away from include meat and fried foods.

Nutritional supplements:   Only coenzyme Q10 and fish oil were associated with statistically significant reduced rates of PD progression.  The use of Melatonin for sleep produced inconclusive results.  Iron supplements increased PD progression.

And finally, organic foods were associated with a lower rate of progression.

What does this mean for us?  I have basically followed a Mediterranean diet for years, however, I am allergic to fish, so  I often each chicken instead.  I haven’t eaten red meat in years.  I never buy canned fruit and vegetables. My downfall is cheese.  I am not sure I can eliminate that completely from my diet, but I can certainly cut back on it.  I recently substituted almond milk for milk to use with coffee and cereal.  Years ago I switched to Tom’s toothpaste and deodorant to avoid the excess aluminum exposure.  The good news is that the progression of PD has been relatively slow for me.

This study will be continuing and more PwP’s are still being recruited.  If you are interested, contact Dr. Mischley at neuroresearch@bastyr.edu.

 

 

For more information on living with Parkinson’s, read   Natural Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease  by Dr. Laurie Mischley