Go Red Month for Heart & Brain Health in Midst of PD- part deux: By Dr. De Leon

“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”

It turns out that our moms were right all along…there may be some truth to the old wives tale that ‘we are what we eat!’

So as we continue to bring awareness to the importance of staying heart and brain health, we must recall that there are over 44 million women in the US who suffer from Heart disease and 90% of women have at least one risk factor for stroke or heart disease!

Having a poor diet not only leads potentially to coronary heart disease but subsequently puts you at risk for strokes and onset of dementias.

Some of the risk factors for stroke are age, gender, and family history which unfortunately  we can not do anything about, other than be a bit mist with our hereditary gene pool and hope we dilute it enough in the next generation so our kids don’t suffer the same consequence.

Well, you are probably wondering why I am writing about stroke and heart attack awareness in a blog for Parkinson’s?  Simple, we are not immune of having other neurological or medical illnesses simply because we already have one. Plus, in fact since we are now discovering that there may actually be a gender difference in not only presentation of PD but also of disease course. This topic is extremely timely as PD awareness month is just around the corner.  in fact our risks increase as we age and some of the consequences of having a chronic illness such as Parkinson’s may only serve to increase the risk. so I encourage everyone to take note of the possible risks and note that 80% of the risk can be modified with some healthy choices such as exercising, eating better and becoming more active.

For instance, as our disease advances it becomes more challenging to get about thus increasing inactivity for longer periods of time- I have been guilty of this myself at times – its easy to sit around and feel sorry for yourself when you are weak, stiff, shaky or simply “don’t feel well.” This is when we must be strong and employ mind over matter- positive thoughts go a long way to self healing and braking cycle of depression.

Some of the medications may cause us to have either low blood pressure or high blood pressure or worse have a yo-yo effect which is a 100 times worse for the brain than having either too low or too high BP. the constant swings is what predisposes to hardening of arteries and subsequently lead to clots or hemorrhages ( bleeds in the brain). Furthermore, PD patients tend to have many sleep disturbances ( as I write here in the middle of the night because I cant sleep!) These unapparent sleep problems can lead to devastating health problems such as increase obesity, increased high blood pressure and even increase the risk of sudden death particularly when is caused by sleep apnea that is undiagnosed or untreated.

Finally, the thing I wish to discuss lastly is diabetes or high sugars. as I mentioned before there are a few articles which mention possibility of increased diabetes with PD but at very least can cause some problems with normal function of insulin since dopamine suppresses its function. this may be one of the reasons we gain weight with medications or perhaps is the other way around? no one really knows for sure but the fact remains that many of us put on a few extra pounds during the course of the disease which only increases our risk of CVA’s and heart attacks.

since there appears to be a growing number of people developing diabetes in our country, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has put out recent recommendations to determine who is at risk in order to prevent developing of full blown diabetes if an exercise regimen and weight management are instituted losing at least 5% of body fat( I am seriously working on this- not easy when you are always hungry!). The concern came about since diabetes seems to have reached epidemic proportions with about 86 million Americans suffering from this each year.

So by determining your pre-diabetes ( means you have higher sugars than normal but not in the range to be officially labeled Diabetes) risk, preventive measures can be instituted earlier on. otherwise, it is speculated that roughly 30% of those at risk will develop Diabetes within 3-5 years.

***The CDC recommendations are as follow: ( apply this to previous blog on dizziness)

  • if you are a man hold “1” finger ; women -none
  • if you are over 60 hold “3” fingers; 50-hold “2”; and hold “1” finger if you are over 40
  • if you have high blood pressure- hold “1”
  • if you are inactive (sitting in couch all day) -hold “1 finger”
  • if diabetes runs in the family- hold “1” finger
  • finally, look at body types – and assign a value depending what your body type is- and be honest!

bodyok, now look at the number of fingers you are holding.. if you have 5 or more you are at risk of developing Diabetes and need to make appointment with your physician ASAP and start life style changes…

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