It is important for the person with Parkinson’s disease to establish and follow lifestyle habits that support general good health and well-being. These include nutritious diet, regular physical activity and exercise, social interaction, and a network of supportive family and friends. For most people with Parkinson’s, the years following diagnosis are generally ordinary aside from the anti-parkinson’s medications they take. The medications keep symptoms under control, sometimes for several decades, and the person generally can enjoy many of the same activities enjoyed before the diagnosis. Attitude and outlook make a significant difference in the way a person experiences Parkinson’s disease, and the way Parkinson’s affects the experience of living.
• Learn as much as possible about Parkinson’s disease and stay informed about research and new findings.
• Follow prescribed medication regimens, including timing of dosages. Discuss concerns and side effects with the neurologist.
• Get enough rest and sleep. Sometimes anti-Parkinson’s medications cause sleep disturbances such as insomnia (inability to fall or stay asleep) and disruption of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep; sleep medications or relaxation methods such as meditation can help.
• Eat enough and eat the right foods. In the early and middle stages of Parkinson’s disease, there are no dietary constraints. (In later Parkinson’s stages, many doctors recommend restricting protein intake to allow maximal levodopa absorption.) If appetite is diminished, eat small meals more frequently. Fruits and vegetables, especially eaten raw, contain valuable antioxi-dants and nutrients.
• Establish and practice breath control and breathing exercises. They help to keep the voice strong and energy-giving oxygen flowing to cells throughout the body.
• Keep the body active. Every day, move every body part. Learn yoga postures that gently stretch and open the body, which help to maintain flexibility, strength, and balance and great stress relief. tai chi, a form of martial arts that uses slow, flowing, graceful movements, provides another excellent means to keep motor functions at their best.
• Enjoy life! This is an ideal time to reconsider personal priorities and restructure lifestyle to accommodate them. There is no reason for the person with Parkinson’s to withdraw from living or from favorite activities as long as medications keep symptoms under control. Most people with Parkinson’s can keep working, driving, traveling, and doing what gives them pleasure.
Although demographics establish Parkinson’s as a disease of old age, in reality many people are diagnosed when they are in middle age and live with the disease for 20 years or longer. Lifestyle is a great influence in shaping those years.