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Senior Nutrition: Your Diet and Parkinson’s Disease
Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on July 22nd, 2021

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Senior Nutrition: Your Diet and Parkinson’s Disease

assisted living  |  senior nutrition  |  senior nutrition ct  |  senior living nutrition  |  health tips for seniors  |  Aging & Caregiving

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder (after Alzheimer’s disease), affecting an estimated one percent of the population over the age of 60. With upwards of one million Americans living with Parkinson’s, it’s become a critical area of research and study and a particularly relevant topic for seniors. Many living with the disease or concerned about a future diagnosis wonder about whether it’s possible to minimize symptoms and/or progression through lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise.

 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it’s important for people with Parkinson’s disease to do their best to remain healthy and strong. Research has shown a link between certain lifestyle modifications and the ability to better control symptoms as well as slow the progression of the condition. Specifically, diet modifications and a focus on exercise have the potential to:

 

  • Keep you healthier longer
  • Help you avoid secondary symptoms of Parkinson’s, like constipation
  • Improve mobility and balance
  • Enhance your overall quality of life

 

To help you or the senior in your life approach a healthy diet from the perspective of Parkinson’s disease, here are some essential tips and insights to keep in mind.

 

Prioritizing Overall Health

 

Although there are no Parkinson’s-specific diets or nutrition plans recommended by the medical community, there’s agreement that maintaining overall health is fundamental to managing the disease. That means carefully planning meals and snacks that promote healthful consumption. 

 

The Parkinson’s Foundation provides some of the following guidance on how to support this effort:

 

  • Avoid “fad” diets, as it’s important to tap into all the food groups. Eating a variety of foods helps with maintaining energy and consuming the proper amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber needed for good health. Check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate program for more information on how to create a healthful nutrition plan. 

 

  • Incorporate plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits, which provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Consuming these types of foods can also help lower one’s fat intake.

 

  • Limit sugar, as options high in this ingredient often contain an overabundance of calories and too few nutrients. Excess sugar can also contribute to tooth decay.

 

 

  • Include foods high in antioxidants, which are important for overall brain health. These include brightly colored and dark fruits and vegetables.

 

  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart attack and certain types of cancer, and to help support a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is critical to reducing the potential for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and common types of diabetes. Be sure to consult with your doctor to determine what a healthy weight means for you.

 

  • Moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, as these have empty calories and few to no nutrients. Consuming alcohol can cause many health problems and accidents, and it may be dangerous or detrimental when mixed with certain medications. 

 

  • Balance the food you eat with physical activity. Exercise and movement can be particularly beneficial for people living with Parkinson’s disease, and it helps balance out a nutrition plan.

 

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Easing Symptoms & Optimizing Medications

 

Because seniors living with Parkinson’s disease face some unique challenges regarding their everyday symptoms and medication effects, diet can be leveraged to help manage these issues more effectively. A proper nutrition plan that takes these factors into consideration is apt to promote bone strength, digestion, and bowel movement, optimal weight, and overall health. Achieving these outcomes generally involves:

 

  • Drinking plenty of water (six glasses a day is recommended), and taking medications with a full glass of it
  • If drinking water leads to urinary urgency, eating foods with high water content, such as celery, butternut squash, grapefruit, strawberries, and watermelon
  • Consuming fiber-rich foods, including brown rice, whole grains, fruit, and beans
  • Limiting sugar, alcohol, and caffeine to prevent impacts on sleep
  • Potentially increasing Vitamin D through foods like fortified milk and milk products, egg yolks, and fatty fish (e.g., tuna, mackerel, and salmon), though only under the direction of a physician
  • Snacking on small quantities of walnuts, cashews, and other nuts to promote brain health
  • Incorporating antioxidant-rich berries and foods that may have anti-inflammatory effects on the brain
  • Following prescription directions to consume medications either on an empty stomach or in conjunction with a small snack

 

Some common challenges for people living with Parkinson’s disease include nausea from medications and/or difficulty swallowing. As a result, weight loss and insufficient intake of calories and nutrients may occur. It’s crucial to consult with your doctor on how to best address these issues so they don’t have a significant impact on overall health and well-being.

 

Choosing the Right Environment for Peace of Mind

 

Dealing with Parkinson’s disease is difficult for both a caregiver and their loved one. Particularly in the early stages of diagnosis, there are many changes occurring that require compassion, understanding, and effort to manage safely and effectively. At times, handling the motor and nonmotor symptoms, in addition to possible concurrent conditions and side effects, can become overwhelming and stressful.

 

If this is the case, assisted living may be an ideal option for you or the senior in your life who’s living with Parkinson’s disease. This type of community caters to individuals with certain medical and personal care needs, and the facilities aim to provide a home-like setting as well as promote residents' independence. Dietary needs and medication are managed by professional staff who are trained to monitor and effectively care for each resident. Be sure to consider this option if managing Parkinson’s disease is starting to require a more supportive environment for you or the senior in your life.   

 

If you’re interested in learning more about United Methodist Homes senior living community, contact us today or schedule a complimentary visit now. For additional tips on senior health and lifestyle issues, check out our blog

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.