What I Learned from Attending a Parkinson’s Symposium

What I Learned from Attending a Parkinson’s Symposium

I recently attended a symposium titled “Shaping the Future” at the University of Delaware. The event, organized by the Johns Hopkins Udall Center, was patient-oriented, so rather than their peers, the expert speakers were addressing people with Parkinson’s.

Looking around the room, I noticed that the audience included people of various ages and degrees of progression. However, we all had one thing in common: hope for a brighter future. I came prepared with my iPad, ready to learn and take notes for this column.

Presentations covered a wide range of subjects, including gut models, cognitive and psychiatric aspects, disease-modifying versus symptomatic therapy, nutrition, pathophysiology, biomarkers, and genetic mutations.

The highlights

  • Biomarkers are like dominoes — a “cascade” leads to cell death. Remove a domino and stop the process. This video explains the concept.
  • You may have heard of alpha-synuclein. I learned that it’s a “bad protein” and potential biomarker when “misfolded” in the development of Parkinson’s.
  • The impact of depression on quality of life in those with Parkinson’s is almost twice the impact of motor impairments.
  • Protein and L-dopa compete for the same receptor in the digestive tract to get into the blood and the brain.
  • Exercise can be a disease-modifying therapy. This presentation looked at a 2017 study that used the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. It found that Parkinson’s patients who exercised at high intensity three times a week for six months had no progression compared with a moderate exercise group whose disease worsened by 1.5 points and a no-exercise group who had a three-point decline.

These are my takeaways from the symposium. If you’d like to explore further, the slide presentations are available here.

Symposiums may not be for everyone; the content can be clinical and hard to understand. However, we should be encouraged by and grateful for the fantastic researchers who are working on finding new treatments and a cure for this disease.

Above all, we should be hopeful that their collective efforts may identify the “dominoes.”

***

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 45 was devastating. After struggling with this life changing diagnosis, I decided to make a change. As a wife and mother of three boys, I needed to attack this. I started building my toolbox. I researched everything. One common thread was exercise. A doctor recommended dance lessons specifically, the Argentine Tango, so I started ballroom dance lessons with my husband and we still have a weekly dance lesson date. You can find me teaching and participating in classes from dancing to boxing. Parkinson’s takes things from you but it can also give you things you never expected. Your perspective changes. Five years ago, life gave me lemons but I’m choosing to make lemonade. It’s not quite perfect but it’s mine and with a little luck, it will get a little bit sweeter.
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Diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 45 was devastating. After struggling with this life changing diagnosis, I decided to make a change. As a wife and mother of three boys, I needed to attack this. I started building my toolbox. I researched everything. One common thread was exercise. A doctor recommended dance lessons specifically, the Argentine Tango, so I started ballroom dance lessons with my husband and we still have a weekly dance lesson date. You can find me teaching and participating in classes from dancing to boxing. Parkinson’s takes things from you but it can also give you things you never expected. Your perspective changes. Five years ago, life gave me lemons but I’m choosing to make lemonade. It’s not quite perfect but it’s mine and with a little luck, it will get a little bit sweeter.
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