Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health.
This week we are going to talk about Parkinson’s Disease. A disease most people have heard of, and one that I’ve been seeing more of lately. Turns out there are 50,000 new cases of Parkinson’s every year in the United States!
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s is a disease that is caused by a loss of nerve cells in a particular part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which is the main part of the brain that produces dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. It’s very important for movement which is what we usually talk about when we talk about Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s is a disease of movement. It can cause Dementia and a lot of other problems.
Dopamine acts as a messenger network between the brain and part of the neuron system that (a) controls motor movement, and (b) coordinates body movement. You get a loss of nerve cells for one reason or another. They either die or get damaged. By the time you get symptoms, it’s estimated that 80% of your dopamine is already gone.
Parkinson’s is a slow progressive disease. As your movements become slow and abnormal, the body begins to stiffen. Parkinson’s usually occurs more often in men than women. The average age of first symptoms is around 60 years old. Nobody knows the cause.
It’s estimated that 3% of people over 80 will get Parkinson’s. As you know, the main thing we talk about at Performance Medicine is prevention. This is a neurodegenerative disease that is preferable to PREVENT than treat.
There is no cure for it yet, but I’m sure there will be someday.
It’s important for all of us to realize that we’re all walking around like a loaded gun. It’s the environment that pulls the trigger. It’s postulated that some environmental factors for Parkinson’s are pesticides, herbicides, and lack of vitamins (especially Vitamin D).
Note: There is no scientist in the world that can dispute that Vitamin D is good for so many things including prevention and protecting you from disease.
There may be a genetic component to Parkinson’s disease (especially in those who get it earlier in life), but it’s rare. Around 15%.
How Do You Diagnose Parkinson’s?
It’s mostly a clinical diagnosis, an MRI or a brain scan won’t show it. They may do an MRI to rule out other causes.
There is no blood test, however, there is a special SPECT scan that shows activity of dopamine in areas of the brain.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s:
- Bradykinesia (hard time moving)
- Wide spaced gate
- Terrible balance
- Loss of expression in the face
- Lack of concentration
- Resting tremor
- Loss of reflexes
Another interesting thing is that most people with Parkinson’s have a loss of smell and brain fog (think back to loss of smell with COVID-19). There may be a viral etiology to some Parkinson’s. I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to see more Parkinson’s in the future because of COVID-19.
As of yet there is no real cure for Parkinson’s, but there are many things you can do for the symptoms of Parkinson’s. There is a surgical treatment called Deep Brain Electrostimulation where you implant electrodes in the brain to help with tremors when the medications fail. You might have heard of this with Michael J. Fox (michaeljfox.org).
The main medications they treat Parkinson’s with are Levodopa and Carbidopa. Carbidopa takes care of the side effects from Levodopa (like nausea).
Note: Levodopa doesn’t mimic Dopamine, it makes the brain produce more.
Other medications used:
- Viagra (Sildenafil) – This makes you much less dependent on Levodopa because it enhances blood flow to the brain.
- Dopamine agonists (most popular are Requip and Mirapex) – These are also used for restless legs syndrome.
- MAO inhibitors
- COMT inhibitors
A lot of what we talk about is prevention. If you read any medical journal about prevention, the main things are always eating right and exercising.
Other things you can do:
- Eat more vegetables
- Omega 3’s
- Vitamin D
- Green Tea Extract
- CBD Oil
The main thing you can do is exercise and eat a mediterranean diet.
Note: If you have tremors and some loss of balance don’t freak out!
There is a thing called Pseudo Parkinson’s, which is a drug reaction. This can happen with a lot of drugs:
- Seizure medications
- Calcium channel blockers
- Nausea medications
- Glaucoma medications
Note: Always have your doctor go over all of your medications with you. Anybody who comes in with new symptoms I always ask them what medications they are taking. Medication side effects are very common. And remember, just because you have a tremor doesn’t mean it’s Parkinson’s.
The Future Of Treating Parkinson’s
One thing that’s being talked about is Deep Focused Ultrasound Therapy to the brain. Another one is Stem Cell Therapy.
Regenerative medicine is the future of medicine. A lot of what we’re studying in anti-aging is regenerative medicine. Besides diet and exercise, there is one vitamin I use with people who are at risk for cognitive decline: Dopa-Mind from LifeExtension.
It’s important to note that as we age our dopamine naturally decreases. Dopa-Mind is made from Wild Green Oat Extract. It’s a natural MAO-B inhibitor that helps preserve dopamine in your brain.
Remember that keeping a healthy lifestyle is more important than any medicine I could ever give you.