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What You Need to Know About Parkinson’s Disease

April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, so designated because it’s the birth month of James Parkinson, who first identified the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease more than 200 years ago. However, while scientists today believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors are involved, the cause of the disease remains largely unknown. Read on!

Why is awareness about Parkinson’s disease so important?

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, 10 million people worldwide are affected by the disease. Of that number:

What is Parkinson’s disease, and what are its symptoms?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that mainly affects the dopamine-producing neurons in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra. Symptoms generally develop slowly over years and differ from one person to another. People with Parkinson’s disease may experience:

In addition to movement-related (or motor) symptoms, some Parkinson’s symptoms may be unrelated to movement. These non-motor symptoms often impact people with Parkinson’s disease more than motor symptoms. Examples of non-motor symptoms include:

Is there any effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease?

Although there’s no cure, treatment options vary and include medications, lifestyle adjustments and surgery. While Parkinson’s disease itself isn’t fatal, disease complications can be serious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rates complications from Parkinson’s disease as the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Nevertheless, it’s possible to have a good to great quality of life with Parkinson’s disease. Working with your doctor and following recommended therapies are essential to successful treatment – as is the use of dopaminergic medications, which activate dopamine receptors in the brain and are taken lifelong to treat symptoms and slow the disease’s progress.

Another beneficial treatment for people with Parkinson’s disease is exercise that promotes functional body movement and balance control. Participants are advised to seek out classes that accommodate individual strengths. Examples include:

All of these classes are available to the central Illinois community from the Stephens Family YMCA in Champaign. The Stephens Family YMCA offers free classes in Chair Yoga and Body Balance and Bands from 1 to 1:45 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The Stephens Family YMCA also offers Rock Steady Boxing classes from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. For members, the course costs $40 per month for 12 90-minute classes. For nonmembers, the price is $115 per month. Every participant must undergo an assessment prior to attending classes to categorize their abilities correctly.

For more information on these and other wellness classes at the Y, visit sf-ymca.net/wellness-programs.

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For more information about Parkinson’s disease from our partners:

Read more about diagnosis and treatments for Parkinson’s disease in this short article from MultiCare Yakima Memorial Hospital.