Does Watching TV Affect My Sister’s Parkinson’s Disease?
My sister, Bev, who has stage 3 Parkinson’s disease (PD), is a Fox News and Hallmark Channel junkie. Although I tease her that Hallmark movies always have the same basic themes and storylines and that TV news is hype, Bev says watching them helps her focus and concentrate. And yes, it lets her escape reality, especially the Hallmark Channel!
At her current stage, Bev has cognitive challenges, including troubles with decision-making and short-term memory, as well as gait and balance issues. As Parkinson’s News Today points out, “One of the most debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease is the loss of coordination and control in body movements, which in many cases leads to severe walking disabilities.”
All these symptoms have increased for Bev in the past six months. Her neurologist has scheduled an MRI for her in June. In the meantime, he has increased her dosage of Aricept (donepezil).
Although Bev takes her dog, Izzy, out for short walks with her rollator, I encouraged her to sit less in front of the tube and try to move a bit more to strengthen her legs, which she admits are weak. I also did some fact-checking and shared with her information from experts about how TV-watching habits can affect our lives, whether or not we are dealing with a chronic disease like PD.
The American Heart Association reported at a May 2021 conference that television viewing does not require much thought and is sedentary (I think we knew that already, right?). It also reported that “moderate-to-high amounts of television viewing during midlife are associated with greater declines in cognitive function and lower gray matter volumes in the brain.”
Bev was surprised to hear about the decline in brain function, but I also wondered if increased TV-watching affected PD symptoms. I didn’t find a lot of research on the specific relationship, but one blog shared by a person with PD said that not only did he become stiffer the more time he sat in front of the television, but his tremors increased.
As reported by Ana de Barros in a Parkinson’s News Today article, a 2015 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found “an association between increasing hours of television viewing per day and greater risk of death from its major causes in the United States, including Parkinson’s disease.”
After discussing all this information with Bev, she said, “Well, I guess I better cut back on watching the news. Besides, it’s mostly negative anyway.”
Now if I could only persuade her to tune out the Hallmark movies!
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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.