Parkinson’s is a disease of the brain. It’s progressive. It gets worse over time, usually many years, even decades.
Top Five Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (note: there are more)
5. Tremors and shaking, upright posture becomes a stoop, and gait slows down.
4. Fatigue and weakness, loss of appetite, and problems with memory are common, along with a softening of the voice.
3. Sexual problems.
2. Pain and progressive body stiffness and balance issues worsen as the disease progresses.
1. Physical and mental incapacitation.
For more information, check out the National Parkinson Foundation website. It’s excellent: http://www.parkinson.org/. You will find that it is not contagious and it doesn’t seem to be hereditary. In short, the researchers don’t have the answer. Yet.
Did we mention there is no cure? True. Despite the millions of dollars and countless hours poured into research, once someone has Parkinson’s, they have it.
Yes! Dr. Rafi Eldor, a leading Israeli economist, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Rather than let the disease take its course, he decided to do something proactive. He started ballroom dancing. (http://www.dancingthroughparkinson.com/rafi-eldor-dancing-through-parkinson/).
By dancing, he has maintained normal body movement 8 YEARS after his initial diagnosis despite the progression of the disease. He has actually won competitions and is changing the way Parkinson’s disease is being treated in Israel, where he lives. He is living a normal life!
TEDx did a talk on his story. Definitely worth a watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cBYGh2E6t4
What is the basis for this improvement of movement?
Parkinson’s disease affects the part of the brain called the Globus Pallidus. This area of the brain becomes deficient in dopamine, a hormone that is important for movement.
There is growing evidence that dance, specifically ballroom dance, can make a big difference for those struggling with this disease. Studies have found that ballroom dancing requires the use of external cues such as music and touch for movement. These cues bypass the part of the brain that is damaged and create new nerve pathways in the brain.
Ballroom dance, in general can do this, however, tango has been found to deliver the most benefit. The reason is that the forward and backward movements along with long strides are particularly therapeutic. Brain scans have confirmed that the damaged part of the brain shows increased activity when patients do the tango, particularly when the music has a regular beat.
Exercise is tough to do for those who don’t have a movement problem. Imagine how hard it is for those who are rigid, stiff and fight for balance due to this disease. Fortunately, dancing makes it fun and much easier for patients to exercise, and as Dr. Eldor has found, it has allowed those who are regular dancers to maintain normal function despite progression of the disease.
If you or someone you know has Parkinson’s disease, NOW is time to find a place to dance. There are ballroom dance programs in almost every city and town. Find one and do it!