Facility Update: The Y will be closed on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27

New Canaan YMCA

Melisa’s Message: April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Melisa’s Message: April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

What is Parkinson’s Disease? Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease of the brain classified as a “movement disorder”.  It tends to affect adults over 50, men more often than women.  There are a million people in the US with PD.  It is a progressive disease and there is no cure.  Instead, it is treated with medication to ensure the availability of dopamine – a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain that is gradually depleted in people with PD.

There is no screening test for PD. Usually, one of the hallmark symptoms is recognized by your doctor during a comprehensive physical exam, or you or a loved become aware of an initially vague symptom becoming more bothersome.   The most obvious is tremor, but not everyone experiences tremor with PD.  It can be slowness of movement, rigidity of muscles localized to one area, changes in gait, balance problems or even a non-motor symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, apathy or one of a constellation of autonomic symptoms such as swallowing problems, constipation, or urinary difficulties.   

As with most neurologic conditions, the diagnosis isn’t made until other potential causes for the symptom/s are ruled out.    Once other possibilities are ruled out, there is a specialized nuclear imaging test that can confirm the diagnosis (called PET scan – positive emission tomography), but treatment of PD can be initiated with or without the PET scan. 

The treatment for PD is medication to ensure that dopamine is available in the brain.  In severe cases when medication becomes ineffective, it can be treated with an electrical stimulator implanted in the brain.

Exercise is potent for people with Parkinson’s Disease and can slow the progression of the disease.  The New Canaan YMCA offers two classes specifically for people with PD: Exercise for Parkinson’s (a group fitness class) and Pedaling for Parkinson’s (spin class specifically for people with PD).  Each occur multiple times per week and are open to the community!

If you or someone you know is interested in either class, please contact Eva Saint at 203-920-1623 or [email protected]

-Melisa