General Guidelines for Managing Parkinson’s Disease

Living a healthful lifestyle is thought to help control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Lifestyle changes seem to be particularly helpful in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease and may help you delay the start of medications.

Try to sleep approximately eight hours per night. Consider taking a nap or two during the day to stay refreshed. Consult your doctor if symptoms, such as restless leg syndrome, rapid eye movement (REM)-behavior disorder, tremor, or difficulty turning in bed at night, are interfering with your ability to sleep.

Consider consulting a dietitian to learn about a healthful diet. Eating well can give you more energy and help you manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Later in the disease, changes may have to be made to your diet due to swallowing difficulties. This may include a diet of soft or chopped foods, or thickened liquids. It is important to keep an eye on your weight, especially weight loss. Malnutrition can worsen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

An exercise program can offer many benefits, such as:

  • Increasing strength
  • Improving stamina
  • Optimizing coordination
  • Decreasing rigidity
  • Improving flexibility
  • Delaying progression of disease

Your doctor can recommend a physical therapist for you to work with. You may also want to try tai chi, a type of martial art that is used to promote health. This form of exercise has shown benefits in improving balance in patients with Parkinson's disease.

If you are fearful of falling, your doctor can give you information about fall prevention. If needed, you can also use a cane or walker for further support.

Speech therapy can be useful in some patients in whom verbal communication is impaired because of an impaired ability to speak loud enough.

Stress is known to worsen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Learning stress management can help control your symptoms.

Facing a chronic, progressive disease is very stress provoking. Many people with chronic diseases experience depression, which is extremely common in people with Parkinson’s disease. Talk to your doctor about support groups in your area. It can be extremely valuable to share your challenges and triumphs with others who are also coping with the condition.

Many individuals require access to safety equipment that can assist in improving quality of life. Occupational and physical therapists can assist in determining when equipment such as tub rails, raised toilet seats or other home modifications may be useful.