Just a decade ago, researchers, clinicians, and people living with Parkinson’s alike did not stress the importance of exercise, stress management, diet, and other positive life choices on Parkinson’s. Today, we know that your experience can be affected in a positive way by your choices and actions. Here are some you can take right now to start the new year with your best foot forward.
#1 — Listen
Start to pay more attention to your body and report any changes to your healthcare team. Listen also to family and friends who may see changes in you that you yourself don’t notice.
#2 — Think holistically
Holistic health means that you look at your whole self and take an integrated approach to care. Every part of you is connected to and influenced by the other parts of you; so, it is important to address Parkinson’s through lifestyle, diet, exercise, stress management, relationships, and personal and spiritual care and growth.
#3 — Be informed
Learn how personal and lifestyle habits can affect your symptoms. The more you know about Parkinson’s, the more empowered you’ll feel to form useful habits to combat your symptoms. For instance, physical activity is important at all stages of Parkinson’s. However, a regular exercise program will take time and energy from other aspects of your life. Knowing which activities to keep or eliminate will maximize the positive impact of the choices you can control.
#4 — Be prepared
Organize your healthcare documents and other important information so you always have it on hand. Prepare for your medical appointments in order to get the best results from your time with your providers.
#5 — Be your own best advocate
Talk with your care team about your goals and concerns. Make them aware of areas you want to improve. If you don’t feel like you’re getting the care you need and deserve, seek out a new provider. Ask for a referral to a rehabilitation therapist if you haven’t received one. If you seek treatment early and are specific about symptoms or problems that are making everyday life frustrating, you’ll help your doctor tailor the most effective treatment plan for you.
#6 — Prioritize the symptoms you can change
This may mean taking medicines on time to limit symptoms or beginning rehabilitative therapy to improve posture or volume of your voice. It will mean starting or renewing your commitment to daily exercise and may also include changing your lifestyle to promote overall health by losing weight, stopping smoking, and eating a healthy diet.
#7 — Learn to live with the symptoms you can’t change
Although a combination of medications, complementary therapies, and lifestyle changes will help you manage Parkinson’s symptoms, symptoms will still show up in different ways in your life. Start to learn different ways to live with the reality of symptoms as you manage them or ways to manage those symptoms that may be less responsive to therapies. For instance, if a bothersome tremor doesn’t always respond to medications, try reducing the anxiety that can make tremor worse. Practicing deep breathing relaxation techniques and intentionally reduce stress as other ways to help manage tremor.
#8 — Be engaged
Seek support from people with whom you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and concerns. Your support system may include people you trust, such as specific family members, friends, or individuals from church or work. Support groups can be helpful, as are group exercise classes and gathering with small groups of other people living with Parkinson’s who encourage and inspire you.
#9 — Learn about clinical research trials
While taking part in a research trial is not for everyone, you may be empowered by taking part in the latest research and by potentially advancing the science of Parkinson’s for the greater community. Learn more online at clinicaltrials.gov and foxtrialfinder.org, as well as each month in our “What’s New in Parkinson’s” blog post series.
#10 — Stay positive
A positive attitude keeps the focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. It fosters hope. Search for the small victories and celebrate them. Remember, tomorrow will bring another opportunity to live well.
From innovative new treatments to increasing awareness of exercise’s neurological benefits to encouraging advocacy initiatives, the Parkinson’s field is rapidly changing for the better. You don’t have to wait for the future, though, to begin living well with Parkinson’s. Begin today. Click here to explore more strategies about what you can do, starting right now, to live well with Parkinson’s.