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As you age, it’s important to monitor your daily habits. Do you exercise? Are you keeping your mind engaged? Are you maintaining a healthy diet?

Physical exercise, cognitive activity, and a well-balanced diet are three practices you should prioritize and implement to live at your healthiest. Today, we’re going to focus specifically on the negative effects of an unhealthy diet and how it may contribute to developing Parkinson’s disease.

It’s true. A poor diet doesn’t only lead to health issues like heart disease, obesity or diabetes – it can also reach your nervous system. At The Village at Gainesville, our goal is to help seniors live their best lives by sharing valuable information about healthy habits and risk factors that can impede a worry-free future.

Now let’s dive into more detail about Parkinson’s disease, foods to avoid, and wellness tips that prevent and lessen the side effects of the disease.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Mayo Clinic defines Parkinson’s disease as an incurable, progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and parts of the body controlled by the nerves. Symptoms begin slowly and then become more severe over time.

Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence at the University of Florida Health states symptoms may be mild at first, such as a mild tremor. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor to reach an official diagnosis and develop a treatment plan:

  • Problems with balance and walking
  • Tremors, or shaking, in your fingers
  • Slowed movement while walking, getting up, or completing simple tasks
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Speech changes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss

Parkinson’s disease is caused when neurons in the brain break down or die and when dopamine levels decrease, according to Other factors that play a role are genetics, age, exposure to toxins, and, as we’ll learn below, poor diet.

Foods that increase your chances of getting Parkinson’s disease

If you’ve begun to notice mild symptoms of Parkinson’s, you’ll want to avoid certain types of foods. Consuming foods that are high in saturated fat have been directly linked to developing chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and they can contribute to Parkinson’s as well.

Foods you should skip or consume less of to help prevent Parkinson’s disease are:

  • Lards and butter
  • Certain dairies like cheese, skim, and low-fat milk
  • Fried food
  • Foods high in sugar
  • Processed foods and beverages like sodas, canned foods, and microwave-ready meals

As a bonus tip, those who have already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s should avoid foods that are more difficult to chew and swallow. 

Now that you know what foods are potential risk factors for developing Parkinson’s, we’ll share the foods you should be eating more of and other beneficial lifestyle choices.

Foods That Help with Parkinson’s Disease: Wellness Tips

Although Parkinson’s disease is incurable, certain medications can be prescribed to manage it. However, these medications sometimes have harsh side effects, and it’s why many people living with Parkinson’s turn to a healthier diet and exercise regimen as an alternative remedy to alleviate their symptoms. 

Try incorporating these types of foods that help Parkinson’s disease symptoms subside:

  • High in antioxidants. Nuts, fruits and vegetables – specifically walnuts, blueberries, tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, and kale – protect against oxidative stress, which is an imbalance that often occurs in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Healthy fats like salmon, soybeans, kidney beans, and flaxseed can help improve brain function for those living with Parkinson’s.
  • Fava beans. This food gets its own mention because it contains levodopa, the same chemical compound used in Parkinson’s medications. It’s important to note that fava beans shouldn’t be consumed to replace a prescribed treatment.
  • Nutrient-rich foods. Individuals with Parkinson’s are more likely to experience malnutrition as a side effect of the disease, so it’s important to consume foods high in iron, vitamin B, vitamin D, zinc, and calcium. These include red meat, whole grains, chicken, tuna, fortified dairy products, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Caffeinated beverages. Green tea and coffee have been shown to improve symptoms of Parkinson’s as well as overall cognition.

Other wellness tips to reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease are:

  • Drinking plenty of water. Dehydration is a side effect that comes along with the disease, and certain medications are prescribed to treat it. Drink up to eight glasses of water per day to quench your thirst.
  • Develop a consistent exercise routine. Whether it’s walking for 30 or more minutes each day, taking a yoga class, or trying out Parkinson’s-specific exercises, your body will feel better, and your movements will improve.
  • Get fresh air. Eating foods that are rich in vitamin D helps, but so does the natural sunlight. Feeling the warmth of the sun can ease joint and muscle pain and leave you feeling refreshed. Always be sure to wear sunscreen in the Florida heat to protect yourself against sun damage. 
  • Eliminate smoking and alcohol. Cutting down on smoking and alcohol is beneficial to your overall health and can help your body more easily fight through symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Living with Parkinson’s disease comes with many challenges, but a diagnosis doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy a fulfilling life. 

(Diet and exercise information provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine.)

Discover active senior living in Gainesville

Our retirement community near the University of Florida provides healthy dining choices, wellness activities, and convenient amenities to support residents in their healthful journey. Seniors and their loved ones can find comfort in independent living, assisted living and memory support, if ever additional health care services are needed. Learn more about the active lifestyle at The Village and stop by to see our variety of floor plans.