Latest Neuroscience Findings include Lifestyle Factors, Advances in Treatment
By Karen Hales, Neurology Solutions Contributing Writer
Parkinson’s disease is a complex multi-system brain disorder impacting movement and the regulation of mood. Strides have been made in understanding the mechanism of PD and ways to prevent and slow neurodegeneration. Below is a roundup of 10 of the latest advances in understanding and treating Parkinson’s.
Advances in Understanding, Treating Parkinson’s
Depression in PD
Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects an estimated 1 million people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. One of the most common psychiatric symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is depression. Studies estimate 50% of PD patients have symptoms of depression. A four-year study found people with PD who did not adhere to prescribed antidepressants had decreased quality of life, worse clinical outcomes and higher morbidity. Researchers recommend neurologists, psychiatrists, and primary-care physicians prioritize diligent use of antidepressants to improve patient outcomes.
Dancing for Brain Health
This year brought another confirmation of dancing’s positive effects on the brain. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Because dancing challenges the body and the mind it has among the most profound effects of any exercise program, researchers say.
Homocysteine and Parkinson’s
Researchers are studying a correlation between the amino acid homocysteine (Hcy) and degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Elevated homocysteine has been connected to vascular disease, dementia and poor health. Regulating homocysteine is a regular practice of specialists treating Parkinson’s disease. High homocysteine worsens oxidative stress on dopamine-producing neurons and accelerates progression of PD, among other impacts.
Hormone Therapy for Parkinson’s
Another tool for managing symptoms and treating Parkinson’s is hormone therapy. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been shown to prevent memory loss and halve the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to several studies. Neurology Solutions offers bioidentical HRT to patients seen frequently by the practice to help address mobility, mood, loss of energy, and to improve quality of life.
Neuroprotection of Vigorous Exercise
High levels of moderate to vigorous exercise is seen as a key interventional therapy due to exercise’s neuroprotective effect. It both enhances the release of protective neurotrophins and increases neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to reorganize or compensate for injury and disease.
A new clinical trial by the University of Colorado Hospital validates the benefits of vigorous exercise in slowing worsening Parkinson’s symptoms, as reported in JAMA Neurology. Patients who adhered to a regular exercise program for six months had an average Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) motor score of 0.3, compared with 3.2.
Metabolic Enhancement for Neurodegenerative Disorders
Metabolic enhancements for neurodegenerative disorders, or MEND, is a holistic approach to treating Parkinson’s. The MEND protocol is based on an assessment of 36 different factors impacting health. MEND incorporates diet, exercise, stress reduction, supplements, brain stimulation therapy and interventions to address sleep, hormone levels, and a variety of other factors.
A small study trial of participants who adhered to MEND found it can reverse memory loss and cognitive decline in patients with early Alzheimer’s.
Less Invasive Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery
Neurology Solutions Movement Disorders Center Medical Director Dr. Robert Izor and Neurosurgeon Dr. Anant Patel, of St. David’s North Austin Medical Center, are at the forefront of a less invasive, more precise Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) implant procedure. The two specialists train neurosurgeons and neurologists in the new DBS technique as certified experts in Medtronic’s Parkinson’s Visiting Clinician Program.
DBS may slow progression of PD in addition to helping control symptoms. According to a 2014 report in Neurology Reviews, animal studies show DBS of the subthalamic nucleus protects “against the progressive loss of nigral cells” associated with PD. A recent analysis comparing veterans with PD who received DBS with those who did not undergo surgery suggests DBS may help PD patients live longer, according to research released in the journal Movement Disorders.
Yoga Therapy for Parkinson’s
Practicing yoga improves muscle strength, flexibility, posture and sleep. Recent studies also have demonstrated that yoga and meditation improve cognitive function in areas of the brain impacted by PD. The hope is that meditation practice can help support and maintain brain function and slow progression of neurodegeneration.
Anti-Aging Benefits of DASH Diet
A study from Temple University in Philadelphia suggests extra-virgin olive oil protects the brain from Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. Olive oil helps reduce inflammation and triggers the autophagy process, which helps broken down cells to flush intracellular debris and toxins.
Olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean diet which is a nutritional plan similar to the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Both diets focus on vegetables, whole grains, and low fat diary, and are recommended as highly anti-aging and neuroprotective nutritional approaches for people with Parkinson’s. The DASH diet ranked as the best overall diet for the 8th year in a row, and was tied for the first time by the Mediterranean diet, in an annual review by U.S. News and World Report.
Intermittent Fasting Enhances Brain Health
Short-term fasting stimulates autophagy, the metabolic process that eliminates cell waste responsible for many of the effects of aging. Studies have demonstrated fasting can help prevent heart disease, speed fat loss and slow or reverse aging. The autophagy process is often defective in cancer, infectious diseases, immunological disorders and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and PD. Normalizing the autophagy system could help damaged cells clear out toxic accumulated proteins prevalent in neurological conditions.
Neurology Solutions is a comprehensive evaluation and treatment center based in Austin, Texas, specializing in Parkinson’s disease, tremor and dystonia. Neurology Solutions offers a Neuroscience blog designed to educate patients and the community at large on various areas of metabolism and promote longer and better quality of life for individuals with neurodegenerative disorders.
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Neurology Solutions is accepting new patients seeking a specialist in treating Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, essential tremor and age-related disorders affecting movement. If you would like a movement disorder specialist consultation, please contact Neurology Solutions by email or call 512-865-6310 to schedule an appointment.