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Tips for Living With Parkinson’s Disease

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on October 22, 2021

Parkinson’s disease affects everyone differently. Whatever your case gives you, there are habits you can work into your daily routine to help you deal with your symptoms and live life more fully.

Exercise Regularly

Moving and stretching your body every day will boost anyone’s health. When you have Parkinson’s, it can help give you:

  • More flexibility
  • Better balance
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Improved coordination
  • Added muscle strength

Talk to your doctor before you start any kind of physical activity. They may recommend that you team up with a physical therapist to help you find your best fitness fit. You may want to try:

 

Be Fall Savvy

Balance problems can make falling a real concern when you have Parkinson’s. As you move around, especially during exercise, be smart. For instance:

  • Plant your heel first when you take a step.
  • Don’t move quickly.
  • Work to keep your posture straight as you walk, and look ahead instead of down.
  • Change directions with a U-turn instead of a pivot.
  • Try not to carry anything when you walk.
  • Don’t walk backward.

If, despite taking these steps, you find yourself falling, think about using a cane, walker, or other device to help you move safely.

Sleep Well

Sometimes, Parkinson’s can stand in the way of restful shut-eye. Parkinson's disease can cause sleep problems or abnormal dreams. Set yourself up for success by keeping good “sleep hygiene” -- patterns that will raise your chance of getting the ZZZs you need:

  • Create a relaxing pre-bedtime routine and follow it every night.
  • Stick to a schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Be light bright: Get plenty of natural light during the day. Avoid screens and keep your room dark at night.
  • Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, and exercise for at least 4 hours before bedtime.
  • Use your bed for sleep (and sex) only.
  • Keep your bedroom cool at night.
  • Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable and support you well.
  • Find your pets another place to sleep -- no bed-sharing with animals.
  • If you nap during the day, keep it to 40 minutes or less.

Eat for Health

It’s common for Parkinson’s disease to come with things like bone thinning, dehydration, weight loss, and constipation. You can head off many of these symptoms if you keep close tabs on your nutrition.

As you stock your pantry and plan your weekly menus, remember to:

  • Eat a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits every day.
  • Watch how much fat you eat (especially the saturated kind).
  • Limit sugar, salt, and sodium.
  • Go easy on alcohol (and be sure what you do drink doesn’t interact with your meds).
  • Drink plenty of water -- at least 8 glasses a day.
  • Load up on foods packed with vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K, and calcium for bone strength.

Expand Your Team

Your doctor is your first line of defense for treating your Parkinson’s symptoms. Many other specialists and therapies can help you. Think about expanding your care to include:

  • Physical therapy to help you with your movement.
  • Occupational therapy make daily activities easier.
  • Speech therapy to improve your speaking and swallowing.
  • Music, art, or pet therapy to improve your mood and help you relax.
  • Acupuncture to help with pain.
  • Massage to ease your muscle tension.

Be Proactive About Improving Your Quality of Life

The most important step you can take is to seek help right from the beginning. Education and support will help you deal with any challenges ahead. Taking action early will help you understand and deal with the many effects of the disease. A counselor or mental health care provider can design a treatment plan to meet your specific needs. The goal is to help you regain a sense of control over your life and improve your quality of life.

Other steps you can take include the following.

  • Find out as much as you can about the condition.
  • Talk to your friends and family about it. Don't isolate them. They will want to be involved in helping you.
  • Do things you enjoy.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor, nurse, or other health care provider to repeat any instructions or medical terms that you don't understand or remember. They should always be available to answer your questions and address your concerns.
  • Make use of resources and support services offered by your hospital and in your community.
  • Learn to manage stress. This will help you to maintain a positive physical, emotional, and spiritual outlook. Being stressed out will only make the situation worse. You should try to organize a daily routine that will reduce stress, with down time for both you and your family members.
  • If you are depressed -- and this is more than just feeling sad occasionally -- antidepressants can be prescribed to help lift your mood.

 

Seek Support From Others

Friends and family can be a great source of help when you’re dealing with Parkinson’s. But sometimes, it’s a relief to be able to relate to someone who knows what it’s like to deal with the disease. In-person or online support groups can offer comfort and practical advice. They can also help you feel less alone. Ask your doctor, nurse, or social worker to suggest local or online groups you can join.

Sometimes people have problems that are better addressed in a one-on-one atmosphere. By taking part in individual counseling, you may be more able to express sensitive or private feelings you have about your condition and its impact on your lifestyle and relationships.

It’s common to feel depressed and anxious, too. Check in with a mental health professional if you're having a hard time enjoying life the way you used to, or if you are often angry, sad, or unlike your usual self.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Parkinson’s Disease.”

American Parkinson Disease Association: “Learning How to Manage Daily Living With Parkinson’s.”

National Parkinson Foundation: “Increasing Mobility Confidence,” “Rest and Sleep,” “Common Nutritional Concerns in Parkinson’s,” “Nutrition,” "Living Well."

Parkinson’s Disease Foundation: “Complementary Therapies.”

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Disease: "Advice for the newly diagnosed."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Parkinson's Disease: Hope Through Research."

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