May 22, 2015

Large Study Links Depression with Increased Risk of Parkinson's Disease

The internet lit up yesterday with reports of a large new study that reported an association between depression and an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD). The results were published in the May 20 online edition of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The data revealed another link, too: the more severe the depression, the greater the risk of developing Parkinson’s.

This news is an interesting companion to yesterday's post, in which I discussed loss of smell as a reliable early indicator of Parkinson’s.

Researchers in Sweden identified 140,688 people with depression, all born before 1956. For each of those individuals, the study team identified and assigned three people without any history of depression – but the same age and gender -- to a control group.

The research thus involved a large sample of over half a million participants, some of whom were followed for 28 years. Among the depressed group, 1,485 individuals – or 1.1% -- developed PD. Among the study participants without depression, only .4% -- point four percent – developed PD.

That means that the people with depression were about three times more likely to develop PD than their counterparts with no history of depression.

May 21, 2015

Can Diminished Sense of Smell Become a Better Diagnostic Tool for Parkinson’s Disease?

Infographic from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

We’ve known for years that hyposmia – reduced ability to detect smells – is typically an early warning sign of Parkinson’s disease (PD). As the graphic above shows, about 96% of all newly-diagnosed Parkinsonians have already lost some sense of smell.

I was certainly part of that 96%. In addition to an arm that didn’t swing naturally when I walked, my diminished olfactory sense was a signal my medical team really should have identified as a PD red flag long before I finally received a diagnosis.

There are a variety of non-motor symptoms of PD, including
  • hyposmia
  • chronic constipation
  • urinary urgency (including frequent nighttime urination) 
  • rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (in which sufferers appear to act out dreams in their sleep)
  • daytime sleepiness
  • anxiety
  • depression
Hyposmia: PD’s Best Early Indicator?
None of these conditions seems to present earlier in the development of the disease, or more regularly, than that diminished sense of smell.

The hyposmia that precedes PD could – should – be a great addition to a doctor’s diagnostic bag of tricks. In the case of PD – the earlier the diagnosis comes, the sooner treatment can begin... and the more likely that depleted dopamine can be replenished.

It’s always surprising to read that by the time most people learn they have the disease, most of their neurons that produce dopamine – the neurotransmitter that enables the brain to manage the body’s movements – have been destroyed.

May 20, 2015

. . . And Sprinkle in Some Tai Chi

Tai chi is becoming very popular with seniors. Most of us have seen the videos in which hundreds of slim, fit, elderly Chinese gather to perform their tai chi exercises early in the morning.

I regularly see reports on studies that show how tai chi can benefit those of us with Parkinson's.

This video describes a tai chi-for-Parkinson's exercise program:

I tried a tai chi class at my local senior center but, as usual, I was too self-conscious about my ineptness. Now I just add some tai chi movements into my morning exercise program.

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So much for the ingredients. Now I'm ready to show how I mix it all together into an exercise program that works for me. 

But that will have to wait until I'm back home next week.

May 19, 2015

. . . Now a Few of the "Most Effective Exercises"

In the last post, I shared some exercises from a WebMD site that features exercises for lower back pain. Today's exercises come from a WebMD slide show that recommends "Seven Most Effective Exercises." Here are the ones I added to my morning recipe:

I use this squat to settle into my chair for my morning meditation.

May 15, 2015

. . . Then Add Some Core Muscle and Other Exercises for My Bad Back

When I finished my training on the BIG exercises, I asked my excellent physical therapist about core muscle exercises. I had heard that they might help alleviate my chronic lower back pain. She agreed and recommended two exercises in particular. That was five years ago, and I still do these exercises almost every day. 

This unusual dedication is due to one thing: I can tell that these exercise really help. 

Here they are.

That's what my PT called the first exercise, but it goes by various names. Here's one description I found.

Getting the exercise right takes a little practice. Here's an explanation under a different name.

Pelvic Brace Exercise

Once a day, lie on back and "deflate the balloon" (mine's more like a beach ball) by pushing the belly button down toward your spine without inflating the stomach. Perform this exercise at 50% or less of full effortPut your fingers on the lower abdomen and feel the stomach going in. 

"The Bridge"
The second exercise is more easily described. This image should suffice.

Image result for Bridge exercise

Other Lower Back Exercises
Recently I came across a WebMD site that displayed a good selection of exercises for lower back pain. I selected the ones here:

Coming next week: Exercises rated most effective, and tai chi for Parkinson's.