Parkinson’s disease: The six most common early symptoms to watch out for
What is Parkinson's disease?
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Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. It is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. Although a cure for the brain condition is yet to be found, early detection can greatly improve quality of life for those affected by Parkinson’s.
As Dan Archer, Managing Director of in-home care provider, Visiting Angels, explained, the majority of people respond well to treatment and only experience mild to moderate disability.
“What’s more, with recent advances in treatment and care, most people with Parkinson’s disease now have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.”
So, what should you be looking for?
According to Archer, symptoms can vary enormously from one person to the next.
“Each sufferer’s experience of Parkinson’s disease will differ – specifically as the condition progresses,” he explained.
However, there are some common early warning signs to watch out for, he said.
- Loss of smell
- Trouble sleeping
- Issues with mobility
“As the condition develops, one of the key symptoms is memory loss and, at the most advanced stage of the disease, many sufferers require wheelchairs and are often unable to stand on their own without falling,” explained Archer.
Can I reduce my risk?
It’s not known why the loss of nerve cells associated with Parkinson’s disease occurs, although research is ongoing to identify potential causes.
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Research has linked a number of factors to an increased risk of developing the brain condition, however.
Some research has shown that regular aerobic exercise might reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Aerobic exercise will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer.
Examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, water aerobics and riding a bike.
“A myriad of animal studies document a direct, favourable effect of aerobic-type exercise on the brain,” states an article published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
“Some other research has shown that people who consume caffeine — which is found in coffee, tea and cola — get Parkinson’s disease less often than those who don’t drink it,” reports the Mayo Clinic.
According to the health body, green tea is also related to a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
However, as it points out, it is still not known whether caffeine actually protects against getting Parkinson’s, or is related in some other way.
“Currently there is not enough evidence to suggest drinking caffeinated beverages to protect against Parkinson’s.”
A broad range of environmental exposures has also been linked to Parkinson’s disease.
“Most experts agree that Parkinson’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors (chemicals, toxins, head trauma),” says the Parkinson’s Foundation (PF).
The PF continues: “The interactions between genes and the environment can be quite complex.
“Some environmental exposures may lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease, while others may increase it.”
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