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

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - WORDS: El­lie Fells

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

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