“You have Parkinson’s disease.” Four words that come with a diagnosis full of questions and uncertainty. However you choose to start processing, you’re not alone. The Michael J. Fox Foundation has developed resources to help individuals and families move through the earliest days with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and beyond.
Ask the MD: Six Tips for Your First Year with Parkinson's (and Beyond!)
A Parkinson’s diagnosis can bring many questions and emotions. But here’s the good news: You don’t have to figure out everything at once. Rachel Dolhun, MD, movement disorder specialist and vice president of medical communications at The Michael J. Fox Foundation, shares six tips for making your way forward with the disease.
Six Tips for Your First Year with Parkinson's (and Beyond!)
See a PD Specialist
If you haven’t already done so, see a movement disorder specialist (MDS), a neurologist with additional training in Parkinson’s and other movement disorders. Because these doctors have more experience with Parkinson’s, they are best positioned to give a second opinion on your diagnosis or care, develop an individualized treatment plan and update you on research. Try to see an expert at the start of your journey and at least once a year.
Learn About Parkinson’s
Knowing the facts about Parkinson’s can help you understand the disease and make informed decisions about your care. But too much information can be overwhelming and even misleading. Ask your doctor and other people with Parkinson’s for credible resources to help you learn more about the disease and your symptoms.
Build a Support System
Know that you’re not alone in Parkinson’s and that there are many places to turn for help. Support means diﬀerent things to diﬀerent people, and it often changes throughout life with Parkinson’s. A lot of people ﬁnd support by talking with their spouse or a close family member or friend. And many also ﬁnd it helpful to connect with others through Parkinson’s support groups, online forums or even exercise classes.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
There’s no one specific diet for Parkinson’s. But a nutritious diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables and whole, unprocessed foods is good for your body and brain. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian to craft a diet that helps you manage your Parkinson’s symptoms and feel energized and healthy.
Exercise can lessen movement and non-movement symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, which are common in Parkinson’s and can increase around the time of diagnosis. Any type of exercise is beneﬁcial, so ﬁnd something you enjoy and will do regularly. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help you create the best plan for your interests and needs.
Participate in Research
Too many people with Parkinson’s regret not participating in research studies early on in their disease course. Taking an active role in such studies can be a way to take control when you may feel like much is out of your hands. There are many ways to get involved. You can participate in research, which often needs volunteers who are recently diagnosed and may not yet be taking medication. Or, you can raise research funds, serve on patient advisory committees or advocate for Parkinson’s research policies.