What is Parkinson's Disease?

What is Parkinson's Disease?

Everybody has heard of Parkinson’s Disease

but unless you have been directly affected it is unlikely that you will know much about this degenerative neurological condition. You may know that it makes people shake, and you probably think that you must be old to have it.

The reality is that you can be diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) at any age. People in their 20s, 30s and 40s have the condition and for them, the impact on their life is much more dramatic. Sadly, there is no support network to help those diagnosed at a young age. This is something that needs to be addressed.

The purpose of the row is to bring about awareness of Parkinson’s in younger people and through the chosen charities, raise much needed funds for them to continue and grow the great work they are doing in this area.

Parkinson’s is not a diagnosis you bring on yourself.

It’s not because you have eaten the wrong diet, or because you have not exercised enough. It’s not because of the lifestyle choices that you make, or those that you don’t. You most likely receive a diagnosis of Parkinson’s due to nothing more than a genetic lottery.

Parkinson’s occurs when somebody does not produce enough dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is important for movement. This lack of dopamine can present itself in many ways in a person with Parkinson’s (PWP). It affects each person in different ways, which means that when they receive a diagnosis, the only thing that they can be told is that there is no cure and it’s going to get progressively worse.

Tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity, bladder and bowel problems, eye problems, falls and dizziness, fatigue, freezing, pain, restless legs syndrome, skin and sweating problems, insomnia, speech and communication problems, swallowing problems, anxiety, dementia, depression, hallucinations, delusions and memory problems. Although not every person diagnosed with PD will experience all of these, they are all Parkinson’s symptoms.

We all find ways of defying our Parkinson’s. I make jokes about it. Robin Buttery has chosen to row across the Indian Ocean. I can’t help feeling my way is a bit easier.

I am full of admiration for Robin, Billy, Barry and James. They are clearly four of the most incredibly courageous, inspirational and determined total lunatics on the planet.

Paul Mayhew-Archer

BBC scriptwriter and author

The Movement Science Group

The Movement Science Group at Oxford Brookes University plan to work with the Indian Ocean Row crew. They explore factors affecting optimal human performance in health and disease, and they want to investigate how people cope with the prolonged physical and mental stresses of ocean rowing.

Professor Helen Dawes

In the video below Professor Helen Dawes talks about the research data that we will be collecting during the row, and the applications that this may have for neurological rehabilitation through exercise programs for people with Parkinson’s

Anyone involved in sport will know that motor skills and fitness improve with practice and that your movement is affected when you are tired. We will monitor Robin’s motor skill changes, alongside physiological and emotional responses.  It’s an important piece of research that will help us better understand how the metabolic, cardiovascular and neuro-muscular systems cope and adapt to prolonged endurance activity.

We are beginning to understand more about how Parkinson’s effects metabolic pathways. Robin taking on this challenge is a unique opportunity to observe the effects of extreme endurance exercise – it has the potential to provide some important insights that may help to redefine how Parkinson’s is viewed and ultimately treated through new drug therapies and neuro-rehabilitation programmes. We’re hoping the findings will send the search for therapies and a cure in a new direction.”

Professor Helen Dawes

Group Leader, Movement Science Group, Oxford Brookes University

Dr Shelly Coe

In the video below Dr Shelly Coe’s describes her role in nutrition for Parkinson’s during the row.

“Many lifestyle factors including physical activity and diet can influence the symptom severity and overall quality of life of those with Parkinson’s. However, little research is out there on the best dietary approaches for well-being in Parkinson’s.

The Movement Science Group at Oxford Brookes has looked at physical activity and nutrition to improve quality of life in those with Parkinson’s. We will assess diet at baseline before and during the row using what is called a ‘food diary’. This will give an indication of the diet in both men before the row and over the two-month rowing period to see how this changes with continuous exercise. We will also collect data on wellness and symptoms pre-and during the row to see how these are affected by the challenge.

This will be a ‘case study’ looking at how nutritional intake can influence disease related changes that take place during long periods of rowing.  We will also advise on the food choices taken on the row to ensure proper nutrition is available during the two-month period.”

Dr Shelly Coe

Research Fellow at Oxford Brookes University