The diagnosis of Parkinson's raises many questions for those affected, but also for their relatives: What effects does the illness have on my life? Which restrictions do I have to expect in everyday life? While a normal life is usually possible at the beginning of the disease, complications increasingly occur over time. For example, movement disorders as well as speech and swallowing symptoms become noticeable. We will give you tips on how to stay fit and active for a long time despite Parkinson's.
Proper nutrition in Parkinson's
A special diet is not necessary for Parkinson's, but patients should be aware of a balanced diet. High-fiber foods are particularly important in order to prevent blockages, which occur more frequently in Parkinson's. For example, a lot of fiber is found in whole grains and vegetables.
It is equally important to take in enough calcium, because Parkinson's disease patients are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than healthy people of the same age. A lot of calcium is found in dairy products, vegetables and eggs.
In addition to a healthy diet, Parkinson's patients must pay particular attention to a sufficient fluid intake. Often they drink for fear of being awkward while drinking, but not enough. Many also want to avoid frequent urination. If there are problems with the bladder, they should be clarified by a doctor. Under no circumstances should sufferers drink less.
Important: If Levodopa is taken, the tablets should not be taken with a protein-rich meal. Since the dopamine contained in the tablets is also one of the proteins, it can otherwise be displaced by other proteins when ingested in the intestine.
Diet for dysphagia
In advanced stages, Parkinson's disease often causes dysphagia. This is due to the fact that the tongue is less mobile and the food can be transported worse. By eating the right foods, swallowing and choking while eating can be avoided.
Porridge and food are the easiest for Parkinson's patients to swallow. Ideally, all the foods in a meal should have the same consistency - a soup with an inlay or mashed potatoes with a piece of meat is less suitable. Hard, dry or granular foods should be avoided as much as possible.
When there are dysphagia, it is best to eat at a time when the medication is optimal. Eat in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere where there is no distraction from radio or television. When eating, also pay attention to an upright body and a straight head posture. Since eating and drinking at the same time increases the risk of swallowing, you should only drink when your mouth is empty.
Stay in motion despite Parkinson's
It is important that Parkinson's patients continue to remain physically active. Because sport promotes motor skills and everyday movements can thus be handled better. In addition, the life expectancy of Parkinson's can be significantly extended by regular exercise. When practicing sports, be sure not to overdo it.
Suitable for Parkinson's patients are physiotherapeutic and occupational therapy as well as light endurance sports. Especially recommended is Nordic Walking, as it trains the endurance and at the same time promotes an upright posture. Also sports like swimming or gymnastics are a good choice. On tennis, volleyball or squash, where the reaction rate is of great importance, it should be better avoided. Downhill sports such as ice skating or skiing are also not suitable for Parkinson's patients.
In order to be able to live independently for as long as possible despite Parkinson's, it is particularly important that certain muscle groups - such as the hand and finger muscles - are specifically strengthened. Therefore, do finger exercises regularly (for example, playing the piano as a dry exercise or kneading a foam ball). Even games like 'Mikado', 'Memory' or 'Four wins' not only train your mental abilities, but also your hand and finger function are trained in a playful way.
Combat freezing phenomenon
In Parkinson's patients, it comes with time to more and more movement disorders. Among other things, the so-called 'freezing phenomenon' can occur - it is meant a sudden freezing of the movement. The person affected can then no longer move from the spot in the short term.
To counteract this phenomenon, you can give yourself loud commands, such as 'Now the left leg forward'. Even consciously climbing over an object or a light thumping on the thigh can sometimes help to release the blockage. On which strategy a patient responds, however, is very different individually.
As the mobility of those affected in Parkinson decreases, the steps smaller and the course shuffling, there is an increased risk of falling. To prevent falls, you should consider the following tips:
- Remove items that you can easily stumble over out of the way. These include, for example, carpets and runners as well as cables.
- Avoid slippery surfaces - for example, do not leave the house in winter if it's just snowed.
- If you feel unsteady on your legs, use a walking aid such as a stick or walker.
- When walking, make sure to lift your feet and avoid fast movements.
- Wear shoes with a leather sole or a rubber heel. On shoes with a continuous rubber sole you should do without it better, as it can easily get stuck to carpets.
Train the facial expressions
In Parkinson's patients freezes over time, the facial expressions more and more. As a result, those affected lose an important communication tool - because certain feelings such as joy or sadness are expressed primarily through facial expressions. To keep your facial expressions as long as possible, you should train them regularly. The best way to imagine a mirror:
- Recall the vowels A, E, I, O, U with exaggerated facial expressions.
- Try expressing different moods based only on your facial expressions, such as joy, sadness, anger, and surprise.
- Fold your forehead alternately, open your cheeks, raise your eyebrows and stick your tongue out.
Actively combat speech disorders
About 90 percent of Parkinson's patients develop speech disorders over time. These are caused by a diminishing mobility of the organs involved in speaking. In addition, however, prolonged intake of levodopa may also have a negative effect on speech.
Speech disorders make it harder to understand those affected. Her voice becomes quieter and the pronunciation more indistinct. Out of shame and fear of constant questioning, speech will eventually be avoided as much as possible. However, this is the wrong way. In order to become active against speech disorders, a suitable speech training should instead be started immediately after the diagnosis has become known.
It is best to consult a speech therapist and let him show you appropriate vocal exercises. With a bit of training, you can do the exercises alone at home. In addition to such targeted vocal exercises, you can easily train your voice in everyday life:
- Every day read a short newspaper article loud and clear.
- Sing loudly.
- Orally play City Country River.
- Participate in discussions.
Driving a car with Parkinson's - yes or no?
Whether you continue to be able to drive despite Parkinson's depends on various factors. Among other things, the extent to which movement disorders already occur is decisive. In addition, the ability to concentrate or react can be reduced by certain medications - please refer to the package leaflet for your medication for more detailed information.
At an early stage, driving is usually not a problem yet. In individual cases, however, the person concerned must always - in consultation with the doctor in charge - always decide responsibly whether he is still able to drive a vehicle or not.