Parkinson's disease can be overwhelming for many people who have it. Not only must patients face their physical changes in your body, but they must also deal with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. But there is hope and there are many things patients can do to help stay active and healthy longer. The experts at Mayo Clinic recommend the following strategies:
A healthy and balanced diet that is includes fruits, vegetables and grains can help protect the body against damages from free radicals. Both fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants which are often more effective than nutritional supplements. A healthy, high-fiber diet can help prevent constipation, which is a known and common side effect to some of the medications used to treat Parkinson's disease.
For many patients, a fiber supplement, such as Citrucel or Metamucil is the answer to preventing constipation. Patients deciding on using these products should begin using them slowly, according to the Mayo Clinic. To do otherwise may cause loose stool formation.
It is also advised that patients drink plenty of fluids as part of a healthy diet. Water and fruit juices will reduce the risk of constipation.
As important as diet is regular exercise. This will help the patient stay physically active longer by helping the body maintain its strength and flexibility. Physicians often recommend physical therapy for patients, but any regular physical activity is considered beneficial. Even such activities as gardening, walking, swimming and jogging are great ways to keep the body fit.
There are several excellent exercise programs available for patients with limited mobility. Many patients enjoy and benefits from chair aerobics, a form of seated aerobics that allows for exercise to the patients body. These programs can be found in most areas.
Patients should schedule exercise time when their medication is working at its peak. It is important that all patients stretch and warm up before beginning their routine.
Problems with walking are some of the main symptoms of Parkinsons disease. This is because of the loss of balance which leads to an awkward gait. Learning to walk properly can help in preventing falls. The Mayo Clinic physical therapy department offers these suggestions:
- Buy a good pair of walking shoes. Proper support can help the patient walk more easily and help prevent falling into bad habits. Running shoes should be avoided as they do not assist with balance problems.
- A slow pace is often a good idea if a patient feels the onset of the "shuffle". Patients should be reminded to use good posture practices when walking. Patients should try to keep their shoulders directly above their hips while walking. It may feel awkward at first, but with practice, it will become more natural.
- When you walking, patients should take as long a step as is safely possible. They should be encouraged to lift their feet extra high, and swing their arms to help with balance. Keep in mind that one of the things that Parkinson's takes from the patient is his natural, involuntary movements, like swinging his arms while walking. Patients should make a conscious attempt to restore those movements.
- One of the most frustrating effects of Parkinson's is what is often called ‘freezing'. This is a feeling that the patient is stuck in place and that he cannot continue forward. This often occurs in doorways or thresholds. Should this happen the patient should rock gently from side to side and then try again. Another tip is to pretend that he is stepping over something on the floor.
As Parkinson's disease progresses, patients may fall more often than they did in the past. Parkinson's affects the balance and coordination centers in the brain and when these are out of sync falls can occur. Patients should be encouraged to improve and maintain their balance skills.
- Asking about exercises that help improve balance is a good first step. Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art that emphasizes slow, graceful movements to relax the muscles and joints, is an excellent choice for many patients.
- Install handrails throughout the home, especially on stairways.
- Keep the floor free of obstructions. Remove area rugs that can cause trips or slide beneath the feet, and keep phone and electrical cords along the edges of the walls and out of the way.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom to help with getting in and out of the tub and off of the toilet.
- Ensure the phone is within easy reach of the bed or favorite chair. A cordless phone is also a very good idea.
By Jeremy Parker
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