In the management of PD, your lifestyle is one of the first things on which you will want to focus. Starting or continuing a schedule of regular exercise can make a big difference in your mobility, both in the short and long term. In fact, several research studies have shown that regular exercise routines of walking, strength training, or Tai Chi can help to maintain, or even improve, mobility, balance, and coordination in people with PD. People with PD also report the physical (and mental) benefits of swimming, cycling, dancing, and even non-contact boxing. Whatever you enjoy to stay mobile is the best activity for you, as you will be more likely to stay committed to it. Generally speaking, in the case of PD, the more active you are, the more active you’ll stay. If you did not exercise regularly before your diagnosis, or if you are unsure about your level of fitness or stamina, talk to your primary care physician first. It’s important to have your overall health, and specifically your cardiac status, evaluated before starting any new exercise regimen. Also, a physical therapist is a great resource for finding out what your body can tolerate and what you can do safely on a regular basis. Your primary care physician or neurologist can provide you with a referral to a physical therapist. Regardless of your level of fitness, an early evaluation by a physical therapist can be very valuable. Among other benefits, a physical therapist can help you individualize your exercise regimen to suit your needs and capabilities. The APDA Rehabilitation Resource Center at Boston University was established to help people with PD access information on exercise recommendations. This center provides callers an opportunity to speak with a licensed physical therapist who can answer questions about exercise and resources in the caller’s area.
n addition to physical therapists, occupational therapists can help people with PD better manage their daily activities, particularly as the disease progresses. Occupational therapists can help you make the most of your mobility with any number of daily activities—whether it’s writing, typing, cooking, driving, bathing, dressing, or grooming. Modifications for work and to the workplace environment also fall under the expertise of the occupational therapist. A speech and language pathologist will evaluate and treat changes in voice volume and speech patterns. The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) program, an evidence-based therapy to increase loudness, is provided by many practitioners. A symptom that may develop as PD advances is dysphagia (dis-FAY-jyah), or difficulty swallowing. This requires careful assessment and treatment to avoid complications due to swallowing problems. Speech-language pathologists can help treat swallowing difficulties.
Diet There is no one diet that is recommended for PD, but healthy eating in general is always a good choice. For example, eating several servings of fruits and vegetables a day increases fiber intake and can help alleviate constipation, in addition to promoting general health. Also, drinking plenty of water or other non-alcoholic and caffeine-free beverages ensures adequate hydration and may reduce the likelihood of low blood pressure and constipation. There is evidence that the Mediterranean diet is heart- and brain-healthy and may be a good place to start when deciding on food options. This diet is characterized by vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts, moderate amounts of low-fat proteins such as chicken and fish and fats centered around olive oil.