The medical profession calls them “pearls,” gems of valuable knowledge to be stored safely in one’s memory. Here are just a few from the 2016 Sunflower Rev It Up for Parkinson’s Symposium & Expo, which was held last weekend at the Oasis Conference Center in Loveland, Ohio. The free event, which drew nearly 700 patients, family members and caregivers, was hosted by the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute.
Videos of the presentations will be posted online soon.
You can sleep through DBS surgery
For decades deep brain stimulation surgery for Parkinson’s was performed only while patients were awake. This enabled doctors to confirm that the electrodes – implanted in an area of the brain the size of a jelly bean – were in the most desirable spot. Today, patients at select centers can choose to have the surgery performed while they are asleep. George Mandybur, MD, a neurosurgeon with the UC Gardner Center, has performed 10 such cases using the intraoperative MRI at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Depending on your clinical presentation, or if you don’t like being awake, we can do it when you’re asleep,” Mandybur says. “Sleep is something new, and only a couple hundred cases have been done in the United States thus far.”
Brainwashing is good for you
Speaking of sleep, we need it to stay healthy. “Sleep sets up a rhythm for the entire body,” says Rhonna Shatz, DO, a neurologist and director of the UC Memory Disorders Center. “If you don’t have good sleep, it will impact all the circuits related to mood and metabolism.” Call it “brainwashing.” When you sleep, your body washes out waste materials, including amyloid, a building block of dementia. Shatz advises those who are sleep-deprived to consolidate their sleep into a 7-hour period and to keep to a wake-sleep schedule. If treatment is required, Shatz primarily recommends melatonin.
Eat your veggies
Shatz notes the strong correlation between a fiber-rich diet and cognitive health and perhaps some protections from Parkinson’s. “When fiber ferments in our bodies, it creates chemicals, including a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate,” she says. “These chemicals are anti-inflammatory and are protective. We recommend the MIND diet, a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the (plant-focused) DASH diet for heart health.”
Beware companies touting cure-all stem cell therapies
Stem cell treatments for Parkinson’s are not ready for prime time, says Kim Seroogy, PhD, director of the Selma Schottenstein Harris Lab for Research in Parkinson’s. “Some companies might be recruiting patients to undergo stem cell therapy,” he says. “But there are no sanctioned clinical trials for stem cell treatment for Parkinson’s in United States. We have to answer questions before we start sticking stem cells in the brain: Where did they come from? Is the procedure effective and safe in animal models? Is there rigorous oversight of the clinical trial by expert Parkinson’s physicians and scientists? The consensus is we’re not there yet. There is no science yet to back any promises up.” Bottom line: sit tight and save your money.
Watch for promising clinical trials
The Gardner Center is one of several U.S. sites studying the apomorphine pump, whose goal is to reduce “off times” for people with Parkinson’s. The pump, which delivers apomorphine (a dopamine agonist) continuously, resembles those used by people with diabetes. The Gardner Center is also studying a levodopa pump. “Pumps are the next generation,” says Alberto Espay, MD, MSc, medical director of the UC Gardner Center. “We will be able to provide medication in this way as an alternative to taking pills throughout the day.”
Don’t stay miserable
Mood changes can be as disabling to people with Parkinson’s as motor changes, says Andrew Duker, MD, a neurologist at the UC Gardner Center. “We have very good treatments for these mood changes. The biggest one we see is apathy, when people are not interested in things they used to do and don’t get enjoyment in things they used to like. That can be treated by forcing yourself to get out, and it can be treated with medications. The key is to acknowledge that it’s a problem.”
Move to Live, and Live to Move!
Exercise is good for you, and research bears this out. Logan Waddell, PT, DPT, shared data that demonstrates the long-lasting effects of high-amplitude exercise training. Documented benefits of the large-motion therapy include improved stride, reduced bradykinesia (slowness of movement) and improvement of fine motor tasks, such as writing, buttoning and teeth brushing.
When life has you down, “Just keep swimming”
Major League Baseball great Dave Parker, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012, knows that in the world of Parkinson’s, like baseball, you need a team. “Organizations that deal with Parkinson’s and other diseases are teams also,” he says. “You have to play the hand that’s dealt, and I’m playing the hand now and getting a lot of help from a lot of organizations. It has benefited me quite a bit. I’m working hard to fight the disease.”
— Cindy Starr