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Parkinson’s Disease And Dementia

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A Parkinson’s diagnosis can be upsetting, especially if you are at risk for Parkinson’s dementia. But there is reason to be hopeful, and these pointers can assist.

What is Parkinson’s disease and how does it affect you?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative central nervous system ailment caused by nerve cells in the brain releasing insufficient amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which controls movement. It usually begins slowly, on one side of the body, as a minor tremor in one hand, for example.

Trembling may spread to both sides of the body as the condition progresses, and it may be accompanied by additional symptoms such as muscle rigidity, slowness of movement, and a loss of balance and coordination. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, the symptoms can be managed with drugs and other treatments.

While motor functions (muscle and movement) are disrupted in the majority of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, not everyone suffers all of them, including the most prevalent ones like tremors. The rate at which the disease progresses also differs substantially from one person to the next. 

Lack of energy, pain, and changes in mood and memory are all symptoms that some people experience as a result of the disease. As the disease develops, some people will develop Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD), which includes memory loss and other cognitive impairments.

A Parkinson’s disease diagnosis can be incredibly upsetting for you and your family. You might be concerned about what the future holds and how you will cope. The possibility of having Parkinson’s disease dementia will further heighten these fears. 

However, no matter what your situation or stage of the disease, there are many things you and your loved ones can do to manage your symptoms, keep your independence, and continue to live a full life.

Parkinson’s disease signs and symptoms

The following are the primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease:

Hands, fingers, forearms, feet, mouth, and chin tremors or shaking. The tremor usually appears (or worsens) when your limbs are at rest rather than when they are moving. Some people notice that stress and excitement aggravate their tremors.

Sluggish movement (bradykinesia). It is possible that your capacity to move freely and spontaneously has been hampered or impeded. Repetitive movements can be particularly challenging, causing difficulties with common chores such as buttoning a shirt, brushing your teeth, and cutting food. Your feet may begin to drag or you may begin to walk with small, shuffling movements.

Rigidity, often known as muscle stiffness, can affect any region of your body (but most commonly in the neck, shoulders, and legs). This might restrict your range of motion and result in muscle pain that worsens as you move.

One of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is poor balance, or the tendency to feel unsteady when standing erect. It occurs as a result of the lack of reflexes required to maintain posture. When standing or turning, some persons develop a tendency to sway backward, which can lead to reverse falls.

Parkinson’s disease secondary symptoms

There are several secondary motor symptoms linked with Parkinson’s disease, in addition to the primary symptoms. Again, not everyone with Parkinson’s will have all of these symptoms or even any of them.

  • When walking, you may experience a brief period of paralysis, which usually occurs when you take your first step.
  • Handwriting that is small and cramped, and that grows worse the more you write.
  • A face with fewer expressions. People may think you are serious or insane. You might be staring blankly or blinking less frequently.
  • Speech may become slurred, slowed, or whispered.
  • Constipation.
  • Anxiety, despair, and terror are examples of emotional shifts.
  • Fatigue and energy depletion
  • Loss of olfactory perception.
  • Drooling and excessive saliva are symptoms of difficulty eating or swallowing.
  • Sleep issues include waking up frequently during the night or falling asleep unexpectedly during the day.

PDD: A type of dementia caused by Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD) is a brain illness that affects some persons with Parkinson’s disease, but not all. The disease’s destruction of brain cells can result in memory loss as well as other cognitive abilities like problem-solving and thinking speed. These mental and behavioral shifts might have an impact on your daily life, independence, and relationships.

There is at least a year—and generally 10 to 15 years—between the Parkinson’s diagnosis and the start of dementia in people who do get dementia due to Parkinson’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association believes that 50 percent or more of persons with Parkinson’s disease may acquire dementia at some point, while there are a number of risk factors that influence the likelihood of acquiring symptoms:

Patients with Parkinson’s disease who have hallucinations, excessive daytime sleepiness, or significant motor control deficits are more likely to develop dementia.

Dementia is more likely in persons who are older (70+) when they first develop Parkinson’s disease.

Dementia is a greater risk factor in Parkinson’s disease.

Overwhelming stress, cardiovascular illness, and negative reactions to the Parkinson’s disease medicine levodopa can all raise the chance of dementia. Dementia is uncommon in patients who have Parkinson’s disease before the age of 50, regardless of how long they have had the disease.

It is crucial to remember that Parkinson’s disease dementia can proceed at different rates in different people. While there are no treatments to slow the rate at which PDD damages brain cells, medicines can assist to alleviate symptoms. Self-help techniques can also help you live a full and meaningful life for as long as feasible.

PDD signs and symptoms

The following are some of the most common indications and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia:

  • Memory and attention problems
  • Slowing down your thoughts
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Paranoia and delusions
  • Insufficient motivation
  • Problems processing visual information Planning and decision-making issues
  • Anxiety, irritation, and moodiness
  • Depression
  • Visual hallucinations are a common occurrence.

It is critical to have yourself or a loved one checked out if you detect any of the following signs and symptoms. But do not make hasty judgments. Anxiety, a lack of desire, and slower thinking are common cognitive impairments in people with Parkinson’s disease. These signs do not always indicate dementia.

Is it Parkinson’s disease that is causing dementia?

Agitation, delusions (deeply held incorrect ideas), and language difficulties are all signs that dementia could be caused by something other than Parkinson’s disease. If cognitive symptoms appear suddenly, they are more likely to be caused by something other than Parkinson’s disease—even treatable reasons like infection, vitamin B12 insufficiency, or a thyroid gland that is underactive.

Depression can cause comparable symptoms to dementia, such as apathy, memory issues, and attention problems. Because depression is so widespread in Parkinson’s patients, it is critical to understand the signs and symptoms of depression in seniors.

Because the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease are so similar, determining the cause of the symptoms can be challenging. As a result, a thorough consultation with a neurologist may be required in order to make a precise diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Dealing with the effects of a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis

A Parkinson’s disease diagnosis can be distressing for both you and your loved ones. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are therapies and lifestyle modifications you may do to reduce the disease’s course and delay the onset of more devastating symptoms, such as Parkinson’s disease dementia. 

Early detection can help you maintain your independence and live a full life for a longer period of time. If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you may experience feelings of rage, grief, or anxiety about the future. All of these emotions are normal. It is also natural to be sad as you adjust to this huge change.

Allow yourself some time to get used to the new situation. Expect to struggle with this new adjustment, just as you would with any major life shift. You can feel OK for a while before becoming worried and overwhelmed again. Allow yourself time to acclimate to this new situation.

Learn everything you can about Parkinson’s disease. Educating yourself and making crucial decisions early in the process might help you feel more in control during this trying time.

Make a request for help. Living with Parkinson’s disease comes with a lot of problems, but there is support out there. You will be able to cope with symptoms while continuing to enhance and find meaning in your life if you reach out to people and obtain support.

Self-help techniques should be used. Healthy lifestyle choices can help you feel better emotionally as well as improve symptoms, make living with Parkinson’s disease simpler, and decrease the disease’s development. Some lifestyle changes may even lower your risk of developing dementia symptoms or delay their onset.

Self-help suggestion number one: It is vital to stay active.

After a Parkinson’s diagnosis, staying active is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health and quality of life. The earlier you begin, the better. Regular exercise or physical activity can help to halt the disease’s progression and lower your risk of developing dementia. It can also help with existing symptoms such as muscle stiffness, posture abnormalities, balance issues, and movement difficulties.

This is in addition to the other mental and emotional advantages of exercise. Even minor increases in physical exercise can lead to significant reductions in melancholy, anxiety, and stress. The idea is to include it in your daily routine.

Pay attention to how you feel in your body. Parkinson’s symptoms can change during the day, so schedule your physical activity around them. Experiment with different types of exercise to see what works best for you and your symptoms. Above all, choose something you enjoy so you can stick with it.

Take “movement breaks” on a regular basis. It is normal to move less when getting around and doing things becomes more difficult, yet inactivity exacerbates symptoms. At least once an hour, remind yourself to get up—or, at the absolute least, change positions. Also, try to avoid spending too much time in front of the television, computer, or reading.

If feasible, see a physical therapist. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new workout routine to ensure that it is safe. However, a physical therapist can provide more personalized advice. They can suggest exercises and activities that are targeted to your individual needs.

Tip 2: What you eat and how you eat can have an impact on your health.

There is no specific Parkinson’s disease diet, but you may assist protect your brain by changing your eating habits. Diets that are good for your heart are usually also good for your brain. Eating behaviors like those recommended in the Mediterranean diet can assist to reduce inflammation, protect neurons, and improve brain cell communication.

It is crucial to eat enough fruits and vegetables, limit sugary and refined carbohydrate intake, limit fried and processed foods, and increase your intake of healthy fats and home-cooked meals. High-protein meals may also aid to improve the chemistry of your brain.

Dealing with nutritional issues

Many patients with Parkinson’s disease suffer from a variety of eating and dietary issues, including constipation, difficulty chewing and swallowing, and stomach distress. The following suggestions can assist you in reducing the severity of the symptoms.

If you have a constipation problem. Drink plenty of water and eat foods that are high in fiber, such as beans, brown rice, whole grains, and fruit.

If you have difficulty digesting or swallowing food. To minimize choking and to aid digestion, cut foods into smaller amounts and stand upright for 30 minutes after eating.

If you are tired all the time. Reduce the quantity of sugar you consume. Alcohol and caffeine should also be avoided, especially before bedtime, as they might degrade the quality of your sleep.

If you take the drug levodopa (Sinemet). Protein limits your body’s capacity to absorb levodopa, so do not consume meat or other protein-rich foods for at least 30-60 minutes after taking it.

If your medication makes you feel nauseous. With a full glass of water and a small non-protein snack, such as a slice of toast or fruit, take your medication.

Some Parkinson’s disease treatments must be taken at specific times before or after meals, thus sticking to a regular meal and medication schedule might be beneficial.

Tip 3: Make social engagement a priority.

The more socially active you are, the more you interact with others face-to-face, and the better your memory and cognition will be. You do not have to be a social butterfly or the light of the party to connect with people who care about you on a regular basis.

Connecting with others is the most effective way to relieve stress, which can increase Parkinson’s disease symptoms if left untreated. Staying socially active also boosts immunological function, which may help to halt illness progression. While many of us become increasingly alone as we age, it is never too late to meet new people and form new friendships.

Tip 4: Make additional healthy lifestyle decisions.

There are many additional things you can do to control Parkinson’s symptoms and reduce your risk of dementia, in addition to regular exercise, a balanced diet, and social interaction.

1. Make an effort to keep your mind active. You may improve your cognitive skills and keep your mind sharp by continuing to study new things and challenging your brain. Learning a new talent, whether it is a musical instrument, a foreign language, a new computer program, or a new game or sport, is another excellent approach to boost brain function. You can learn new skills by enrolling in classes at community centers or institutions.

2. Boost the quality of your nighttime sleep. Toxins must be flushed out of the body, and the brain must be protected. The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep. Create calming night rituals, such as having a bath or doing some mild stretches, and switch off all electronics at least one hour before bedtime.

3. Take care of your tension. Stress that is not managed has a toll on the brain, diminishing a critical memory area, slowing nerve cell growth, and exacerbating many Parkinson’s symptoms. Overwhelming stress may raise your chances of developing dementia. Exercise and relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing, in addition to connecting face-to-face with others, can help you reduce stress levels.

4. Look for opportunities to contribute or give back. Investing in things that give your life meaning and purpose can revitalize your nervous and immunological systems, as well as help you maintain your health. Continue to engage in things that were important to you before your diagnosis, or seek out new ways to devote your time. Volunteering for a cause that matters to you, spending more time with your grandchildren, joining a religious group, or simply caring for your pets—anything that makes you feel wanted and fulfilled—are all possibilities.

5. Take care of your spirit. Every day, do things that bring you delight. Everyone has a unique way of experiencing pleasure. Spending time in nature, appreciating the arts, playing with grandkids or pets, traveling, or engaging in a hobby are all possibilities.

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