Does Watching TV Affect My Sister’s Parkinson’s Disease?

Jo Gambosi avatar

by Jo Gambosi |

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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).

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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.

Comments

Ann avatar

Ann

I would also add to limit negative, depressing content as this can exacerbate these feelings. My husband grew more depressed and anxious watching the war coverage and surrounding news stories.

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Mike avatar

Mike

Jo,
Your sister is very lucky to have such a caring sibling. Ultimately how she copes is her burden. She may cope with Hallmark movies, or even Sean Hannity. It Is her choice. My wife and I are retired and we watch a lot of television….different stations. I am a PwP. We also do a lot of other things as I am sure Bev does. I exercise a lot, write on different Parkinson’s sites ,and we travel some. My guess is that watching too much T.V. effects a ton of people in problematic ways. God gave us all free will to cope. My two cents are give your sister the freedom to make her own decision. Blessings, Mike

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Elaine Martin avatar

Elaine Martin

My husband has Parkinson’s for 20 years. He watches the western channel and MeTV all day long. He also does the Parkinson’s boxing program, sits outside and walks around the neighborhood regularly. Although it makes me crazy to see him in his chair, it makes him comfortable and relaxed. Gently nudging your sister to move is great but don’t harp on her. I’ve found that to make things worse.
I would also question the donepezil. They prescribed that for my husband to help with memory and it rendered him literally immobile. Muscle weakness Is listed as a rare side effect that hit him immediately.

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