Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms, causes and treatment of Parkinson’s Disease – just in case.

 

It’s not as rare as you may think

According to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Parkinson’s Disease is the second-most diagnosed brain disease after Alzheimer’s with 60,000 diagnoses a year. It’s most commonly diagnosed in those 60+ years of age.

 

Why does this happen?

Parkinson’s Disease is a movement disorder caused by failure or death of dopamine-making brain cells. Dopamine coordinates movement, motivation and good feelings. There’s no one thing scientists can pinpoint as the cause of the disease; the current understanding is that it’s caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors – like genetic mutations and exposure to toxins – herbicides and pesticides.

Scientists have begun turning their attention to Lewy bodies, too. Lewy bodies are made of a protein called alpha-synuclein. These abnormal protein clumps can’t be broken down, and they appear to develop within the brain cells of those with Parkinson’s Disease. Lewy bodies block neurotransmitter release – molecules being delivered between neurons. This includes the neurotransmitter dopamine and is likely the reason why, as mentioned above, dopamine creation and transmission fails for those living with Parkinson’s Disease. There will likely be more research and findings on Lewy bodies in coming years.

 

What does it mean for those living with it?

Parkinson’s Disease is a unique experience to all who live with it. The array of Parkinson’s symptoms manifest in different combinations per individual. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Resting tremor
  • Stiffness
  • Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)
  • Walking imbalance
  • Difficulty smelling
  • Cramped handwriting (micrographia)
  • Problems with sleep
  • Cognitive changes
  • Depression

 

Parkinson’s Disease can be a devastating diagnosis. It could mean the end of a career for a marathon runner, an artist’s creativity to never be actualized again due to shaking hands, many ends to a person’s everyday life and ensuing depression due to these symptoms and the lack of dopamine. The point is, it could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

 

What can we do about it?

There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, and there’s no way to stop its progression. Current medications and treatments can ease symptoms. Treatment plans are individual to the patient since Parkinson’s Disease is a unique experience to those living with it. It usually takes coordination among several healthcare providers, and a combination of treatments.

Treatments can include surgery, as in deep brain stimulation to reduce symptoms, physical therapy and general exercise, and medications that supplement or make up for the lack of dopamine in the brain.

Lifestyle changes are also recommended: changing eating habits to include more wholesome, nutritious choices, exercising – swimming, walking and yoga – and maintaining relationships versus closing yourself off to the world.

 

How Think’s Care Coordination can help

Think Whole Person Healthcare’s services can play a huge supporting role to those living with any chronic condition – including Parkinson’s. Since your primary doctor is the best first point of contact when you’re experiencing any odd symptoms, it’s most often primary doctors who diagnose Parkinson’s Disease. From there, they’ll likely recommend going to see a movement disorder specialist, neurologist and/or speech language pathologist depending on the patient’s symptoms and the doctor’s knowledge of who their patient is.

This is where Think Whole Person Healthcare can help. Since Parkinson’s Disease symptoms are vast and unique, there will be a lot of people suggesting treatments, medications, etc. Think Whole Person Healthcare’s Care Coordinators know their patients’ care plans and manage it with specialists so the primary doctor can better treat patients and communicate with all involved in the care plan.

Think Whole Person Healthcare has its own specialists in-house that help, too. Our nine physical therapists specialize in different areas of care – like spinal problems, gait, balance, chronic pain, and more, and some even have a background in psychology, which offers a more balanced, whole-person treatment. Our physical therapists offer a free Balance Assessment, where they test to see if individuals qualify for our Fall Prevention Class; staying active, strong and balanced while living with Parkinson’s, especially if experiencing imbalance, is extremely beneficial and preventative.

Other in-house specialists include massage therapy, mental health, podiatrists and more who can play a huge role, too, also depending on the symptoms.

Raising awareness is key to raising funds and research efforts to find cures for those living with Parkinson’s Disease, experiencing a wide assortment of symptoms that are life-changing. There’s no better time than now to start spreading the word and helping your fellow earth-dwellers living with the disease. Sharing this article with your friends is a great place to start.


 

The Importance of Primary Care

Visiting Your Primary Care Physician (PCP) First and Often

To understand what primary care is, we need talk terminology first. There are three types of Primary Care Physicians (PCP); two of them apply to you, but we’ll go through all three for fun.

  • Pediatrician – Cares for children.
  • Internal Medicine – Cares for adults.
  • Family Practitioner – Cares for both.

Think has internists and family physicians. Each Primary Care Physician has an entire team of nurses and pharmacists helping you manage your whole health. Are you smarter than you were 5-7 seconds ago? Maybe yes, maybe no. Keep reading, and you’ll surely be smarter about your healthcare than you were before.

 

Let’s say you notice a sharp pain in your back, or that chronic pain in your foot is acting up again. Your Primary Care Physician is your first point of contact on your road to wellness.

“Why?”

Well, there are actually tons of reasons why you need to go to your PCP first and often.

Here are two important reasons you should use your PCP to manage your whole health:

1. Going to your PCP before a specialist increases communication and collaboration.

It’s obvious that communication is essential to maintain your whole health. You wouldn’t want to go to a cardiologist first, who has no comprehensive, centralized documentation of your health history and medications. What if you can’t remember your mediation list and they prescribe you conflicting medications?

Think of your Primary Care Physician the guardian of your healthcare plan. At Think, they, along with the rest of your care management team, have access to your Electronic Health Record (EHR), accessible to all who treat you within the walls of Think.

With the touch of a button, your PCP can see all your medical history, medications, notes, and more. Plus, they can consult with their pharmacist (yes, there is one Clinical Pharmacist assigned to each Think PCP!). All of this makes it way more likely your healthcare decisions are informed and effective – and that you’re getting the absolute best, most affordable medication combinations possible, vs. starting the process with a specialist.

Your PCP is specialized and highly trained in adult healthcare, and they can do many of the exams that a specialist can.

If, in the case your PCP thinks you need a specialist during your visit, they’ll recommend the best one for you based on their knowledge of who you are. What’s great about this process is that know your PCP is aware and communicating with your specialist. Learn more about Think Specialists.

✅ Yes: Going to your PCP before a specialist increases communication and collaboration.

 

2. Your life is for living – so protect your health with regular visits to your PCP.

Life is meant to be spent at your sister’s birthday party, splurging on that watch you really wanted, reading a great book in your favorite chair in your living room, and going out to dinner with your friends.

We like to see you when you’re well – and keep you that way! When you visit your PCP regularly, the chances of you maintaining the lifestyle you want increase significantly.

Sure, visiting your PCP regularly may be more money now. It’s proven that regular, preventative check-ups with your PCP equate to significantly less spent in the future and less suffering during your life.

Because of the overseer role your PCP and their team play in your whole health, regular visits to your PCP vs. sporadic visits to specialists prevents miscommunications in medication and treatments that lead to those expensive treatments and ER visits down the road.

❗▶ Fact: One of the top reasons for hospitalization is medication error. Check out Think Pharmacy’s 5-step, ThinkSync Medication Plan.

✅ Did we make our point? We think so: Your life is for living – so protect your health with regular visits to your PCP.

 

These two reasons to let your PCP manage your whole health are all the more important when you have more than one chronic condition, which many Think patients do.

Care management of chronic conditions is something we specialize in. At Think, we’ve got nurses, called Care Coordinators, who create, communicate and help execute your personalized care plan – along with a team that includes your Primary Care Physician, their nurses and pharmacist.

To sum it up, avoiding medical error and being the healthiest you can be are both reasons why you should see your Primary Care Physician first and often.

 

If you feel like you’re for sure smarter at this point, consider becoming a patient at Think!