As Halloween creeps up, I find myself in a strange mood. I am watching scary movies, going to haunted houses and thinking of what candy I will get for the trick or treaters… oh alright, the candy is really for me, don’t judge me. With the spooky holiday almost upon us, this blog seemed appropriate. Here are 10 strange facts about Parkinson’s disease that you might not have known. Read on… if you dare… Mwahahahaahhaha.
1. One medication has been the gold standard of the treatment of Parkinson’s symptoms for the last 5 decades.
-In 1961, the first successful clinical trial of levodopa was completed. Since that time, no other drug treatment has been as effective or widely used as good ol’ L-Dopa… and must say my dear, you have aged quite well.
2. There is no test to officially diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
-The way to get a diagnosis is by visiting a Neurologist who will take your medical history and physical exam to identify the cardinal symptoms (tremor, rigidity or slowness of movement) of PD. Then you need to be evaluated by a movement disorder specialist, which will prescribe medications to see if you respond. Getting an official diagnosis can be challenging because Parkinson’s can look like many other Neurological disorders, leading to misdiagnosis or years of unknown cause.
3. The 80% threshold in Parkinson’s disease.
– The first symptoms of PD do not appear until 80% of the dopamine at the terminals of the substantia nigra neurons, in the striatum is lost. If we view our brain as NASA runs its space shuttle, there is a fail-safe in place for all of our bodily functions. The human body is designed with ways to sustain impairment, and injuries. We can unconsciously compensate for our body’s shortcomings. After diagnosis, many Parkies can look back and see the signs of the disease years before even knowing they had it.
4. Men are two times more likely than women to get Parkinson’s disease.
-This could be due to men having a higher risk of toxicant exposure or head trauma. Or maybe it’s the universe reminding men that since women bear children… they can take one for the team.
5. There is still no definitive cause of Parkinson’s disease.
-It’s believed that environmental factors or genetic isssues (such as mutations in the LRRK2 gene) are the greatest contributor to Parkinson’s disease. But at this time, it’s still nearly impossible to determine the cause of a individual’s diagnosis.
6. No two people will have the identical symptoms.
– Many people will ask me what Parkinson’s disease (PD) feels like. Seeing as there are many variations of symptoms, it is hard to describe. Not to mention that each person will experience Parkinson’s in a different way. We are kind of like snowflakes; there are no two Parkies that are alike. Or if you are a fashionable and chic Parkie, you could see it as we all have our own pair of designer jeans that we wear. Although they may look similar, we each wear our jeans differently.
7. Eating copious amounts of bacon can prevent your Parkinson’s medications from absorbing properly.
-Not all Parkies experience “dose failure” (when your medications are not effective) due to protein, but it can happen. Amino acids (from dietary protein) can interfere with the uptake of Levodopa into the brain. Just imagine your medications are in a war against the bacon you just shoved down your face hole. They are both competing for absorption with their little pitchforks and torches. So for me, I stay far away from protein when I am trying to get my meds to come “on”.
8. Exercise can be just as important as taking your medications.
-What if I told you about a new pill just approved by the FDA that will help your mobility, increase your strength, stabilize your mood, sharpen your mind, decrease fatigue, alleviate constipation and help you sleep better? Have I gotten your attention yet? Then what if I told you that this pill has been scientifically proven to slow the progression of your Parkinson’s disease? I have a feeling that you would be sprinting for the closest pharmacy faster than a herd of snails.
This pill does exist, but it’s not taken orally, and it’s not a patch you place on your arm, you can only get this medication when you get up and exercise. Yes, exercise is medicine. Healthy Parkies don’t view exercise as optional, they know it’s a requirement to stay healthy. So dust off those leg warmers and slap on those sneakers because it’s time to exercise… what’s your excuse?
9. Parkies can have serious constipation issues. In severe cases, Parkinson’s has led to complete paralyzation of the digestive system.
–Not many things can compare to having a good poop. You get to clear out all that candu you scarfed down… to make room for more. But what happens when your autonomic system gets impaired from Parkinson’s disease? Our autonomic system controls all of our “automatic” functions such as heart rate, digestion, breathing rate, perspiration, urination, and sexual arousal. So without peristalsis, (successive waves of contractions in our intestines that helps our stool pass through our bowels) we get backed up, which can lead to nausea, vomiting, obstructions and even worse, gastroparesis.
10. The Chamorro people of Guam have a high incidence of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
-This phenomenon has been linked to their consumption of the flying fox bat. The flying fox bat has a palate for the cycad seed, which contains a high level of neurotoxins. So the Chamorro people where unknowingly ingesting toxic bats… guess they should have eaten the organic free-range bats.
Hope you enjoyed my strange blog! Now where did I put those snickers bars…?