Parkinson Disease 101

Parkinson Disease 101 by Emma Torneiro from the Parkinson Association of Alberta. 1-800-561-1911 Or, to find a support group in your area, contact Parkinson Canada 1-800-565-3000, or
Parkinson disease affects 1 in every 100 individuals over 60 years old, over 3000 people in the Calgary region, and over 10,000 in Alberta. It is the second most prevalent neurological disease in Alberta, after Alzheimer’s disease.

Parkinson disease is a chronic progressive neurodegenerative disease. Parkinson’s occurs due to a loss of dopamine cells in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the body’s movements. Less dopamine in the brain means less control of movements and less mobility in general. 

Parkinson disease is very diverse and effects everyone differently. Not everyone with Parkinson’s will experience the same symptoms and no two people will have the same variation or severity of symptoms, or progression of disease.

People with Parkinson’s experience both motor and non-motor symptoms. Motor symptoms most commonly can include tremors, slowness, or stiffness – as well as walking and balance issues. Non-motor symptoms can include mood changes (depression, anxiety, apathy), sleep disturbance, memory and thinking challenges, constipation, and speech and swallowing concerns. While this may seem like a long list of symptoms, most people live well for many years with Parkinson’s. 

Medication and exercise are the two main ways individuals manage their symptoms and live well with Parkinson’s. Medications replace dopamine in the brain and help to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Exercise helps with symptom management, to increase and maintain strength and mobility, and currently has been the only intervention shown by research to slow the progression of the disease. 

There is still a lot we don’t know about Parkinson’s. The cause of Parkinson’s is not known, and there is no known cure for Parkinson disease. Research in the area of Parkinson’s is ongoing, and there is a lot of hope that significant discoveries and breakthroughs will be made in the near future. 

If you or someone you know is affected by Parkinson disease, encourage them to reach out for support from the Parkinson Association of Alberta. The Parkinson Association of Alberta offers a variety of programs, exercise, education, support groups, and one-on-one meetings for people living with Parkinson’s and their families. 
Parkinson Association of Alberta – Calgary Chapter
120, 6835 Railway St SE, Calgary, AB