April the 5th represents the start of Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Week. Pharmacists are heavily involved in the management of patients with Parkinson’s disease as their medicines are of critical importance for their symptom control and subsequent quality of life. However, this is not the complete picture and this week is a perfect opportunity to refresh our knowledge of Parkinson’s disease and be aware of what other factors can contribute to better patient care.
Emerging evidence suggests that Parkinson’s symptoms can be slowed by performing 2.5 hours of exercise in a week. This is likely through keeping joints and muscles active and flexible, which in turn combats the stiffness and slowness that can occur with Parkinson’s disease. It also has an effect on balance. Furthermore, the benefits of exercise extend to managing other aspects of health such as sleep, mental health and cardiovascular health. Exercise should be tailored to the individual at a level that can be maintained and achieved, and to target movements that have become difficult at later stages of the condition.
Although Parkinson’s Disease patients do not need to follow any specific diet, there are dietary benefits that can be gained through careful consideration. For example, managing constipation or low blood pressure through diet can be very useful for a patient, or adjustment of diet to avoid swallowing issues that could manifest later on in life. Patients should be encouraged to eat as nutritiously as possible for general health benefits as well as to maintain a healthy weight. A protein redistribution diet can help improve the efficacy of levodopa-based medicines.
Parkinson’s Disease patients may find using certain tools difficult as a consequence of their condition. They can obtain special utensils such as cutlery or utensils to work around these issues. There are also practical considerations such as rearranging the layout of a room to account for changes in mobility. All of this goes to show that there is so much more to consider when thinking about how best to manage a Parkinson’s Disease patient- our intense focus on pharmacological solutions sometimes makes us lose sight of this bigger picture, and we should look to address it.