Time to fight back against Parkinson’s disease
Some 145,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year, with this number set to double before 2040 – but we are fighting back
The charity Parkinson’s UK is taking big steps to find a cure for the neurological disease, working to raise awareness of its symptoms and side-effects. Between April and October this year they have been running their Walk for Parkinson’s series, with 37 sponsored walks taking place in some of the UK’S most spectacular locations.
Walking was chosen as a fundraising activity by the charity because whilst being something that all the family can enjoy, it is particularly beneficial for those with Parkinson’s themselves. Research from Parkinson’s UK shows that two and a half hours of exercise per week can help to slow the progression of symptoms such as a tremor, rigidity and muscle stiffness, with walking providing a way to keep mentally and physically active. The locations offer walks of varying length in order to cater for all levels of fitness, including shorter routes for those with
more advanced Parkinson’s. Ruth Brady, who organises the walk at Wilton House in Salisbury, says: ‘The walks are something that everyone can get involved in, and it’s not too daunting either – not everyone wants to throw themselves out of an aeroplane to raise money for charity, but lots of people do want to go on a family walk together.’
This year they have attracted more walkers than ever. Becky Redbond, a regional fundraiser, said in July: ‘As of now, we’ve got 4,352 walkers taking part, and so far they’ve raised £292,581. In 2017, 4,300 people took part, so we’ve already hit that.’ The money raised goes towards the fantastic cause of supporting those affected, whilst also helping to fund future research. Becky adds: ‘This is a big time for research. We’re really putting a lot behind finding a cure, or a new drug – there hasn’t been a new drug for 50 years, so I think that is really driving people to want to raise the money.’
Funded by a large project grant from Parkinson’s UK, the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre is at the forefront of pioneering research. Michele Hu, the cohort principal investigator at the centre, says that raising awareness about the disease and its symptoms is vital. She explains that REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder is one of the key warning signs, caused when the ‘switch’ in your brain that controls muscle movement in your sleep degenerates, resulting in people shouting out and acting violently in their dreams. This common disorder is strongly linked to the development of Parkinson’s. ‘You have a six to seven per cent chance of converting to Parkinson’s every year that you have this sleep condition,’ says Michele.
Parkinson’s UK is helping to make these warning signs more widely known. Grabbing your walking boots and taking part in the Walk for Parkinson’s series is just one way of helping to fund this research and enabling the provision of support to those living with the disease and their families. Although the walk series has now finished for 2018, there are plenty of other ways that you can step in to do your bit; the charity recommends hosting a sponsored coffee morning, with fundraising packs available to order from their website. Alternatively, hold your own ‘Use your Head’ day, which involves sporting the weirdest, wackiest headwear possible to raise money for a fantastic cause. For the adventurous amongst us, take on the challenge of their Arctic Adventure in Finland next March, or find your inner runner and give The Big Half Marathon in London a go. Whether great or small, any donation to the charity is sure to make a huge difference. N Information for the 2019 Walk for Parkinson’s series is available online from this month. To get involved, visit parkinsons.org.uk