7 posts from November, 2018

Parkinson’s Freezing Triggers and Fall Prevention

Posted 9 months ago by

Gait freezing and falls are common among people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Take a closer look at patients’ experiences, common triggers of freezing and tips that may help prevent falls.

What is known about freezing and falls?

Researchers and movement experts have been studying gait freezing in people with PD for several decades. The exact cause of freezing is unknown, but experts believe it’s caused by PD’s effects on parts of the brain that control motor movement, such as the basal ganglia or part of the right side of the brain.

Common triggers of gait freezing may include:

  • Crowded environments or tight spaces
  • Turning corners, going around furniture or objects, or changing direction
  • Entering doorways, crossing over thresholds (especially from outdoors to inside), or changes in flooring (for example, from tile or wood to carpet)
  • Distraction or multi-tasking, such as walking and talking or carrying objects
  • Anxiety (initial research shows that this common symptom in people with PD may play a role in freezing, but further studies are needed)

Some tips and tricks may help “thaw” episodes of freezing (but every person is different, so talk with a movement specialist or physical therapist about what might work for you):

  • Visual cues — Giving yourself a visual hint may help your brain (and feet) know where to step, according to movement disorder specialists at the University of Florida Health. Visual cues include lasers on canes and U-step walkers, placing lines of tape on the floor, and stepping over the foot of another person . Some Dutch researchers are even working on laser sneakers for people with PD.
  • Auditory cues — Listening to music, counting out loud (like “1, 2, 3… 1, 2, 3…”) or using a metronome (or metronome app) can give your brain and body a rhythm to step to (check out this blog post about how Pamela Quinn, a professional dancer with PD, uses auditory cues to walk).
  • Practicing pivoting or changing direction — Check out this video, for example.
  • Check out these additional fall prevention tips — take note of potential household hazards, such as electrical cords, throw rugs or clutter on the floor.
  • Talk with your doctor about any freezing or falls you’ve experienced.Besides freezing, other factors that may cause falls include delayed reaction time, rigidity, bradykinesia, poor balance and even dehydration.

Taking your medication on time and working with your doctor to reduce “off” times is also important in preventing freezing.

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Brits are boosting men’s mental health — can the U.S. follow suit?

Posted 9 months ago by

The British Royals’ passion for improving mental health is giving us all the feels — and possibly helping reduce male suicide rates in the U.K. Who’s raising awareness of men’s mental health in the U.S.? (See how PatientsLikeMe member John, pictured above, is doing his part!)

Diverging stats in the U.K. and U.S.

The U.K. has been making progress in terms of reducing male suicide rates and the stigma around men’s mental health, thanks in part to Heads Together campaign launched by Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Harry in 2016. Each of them have their own areas of focus in mental health advocacy.

Kate deserves credit for coming up with the idea to join forces for one major campaign, Prince William says. He and his brother have also been opening up about their grief from losing their mother during their childhood.

Unfortunately, U.S. suicide rates (among men and women) have been on the rise, according to the latest CDC report, and stigma still surrounds mental health — especially among men.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says that about 6 million American men suffer from depression every year, but men are far less likely than women to seek help for their mental health. U.S. psychology researchers are studying “how the traditional male role — which restricts emotional expression and encourages a pre-occupation with success, power and competition — is associated with negative physical and psychological consequences, such as depression, anxiety and relationship problems,” the APA says.

U.S. campaigns and emerging voices

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) launched the “Real Men. Real Depression.” campaign in 2003, and other organizations and initiatives have sprung up, including:

A few high-profile guys have also opened up recently about their mental health struggles. In May 2018, Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps partnered with online therapy provider Talkspace to share his story of therapy helping him through severe depression and suicidal thoughts in 2014.

“Throughout my career, I struggled with depression and anxiety at various times, and I found it so difficult to get the help I needed,” Phelps says, noting that he went for days on end without leaving his room. “As I started opening up and talking about my issues, I felt strength, not vulnerability.”

In an August 2018 Boston Globe interview, Celtics basketball player Paul Pierce said that he privately struggled with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress after he was stabbed in a nightclub in 2000.

PatientsLikeMe member John shares about MDD with WebMD

John (JohnJFB126), a member of the 2016-2017 Team of Advisors, is raising his voice as a man living with major depressive disorder (MDD). He’s partnering with WebMD Education to share his perspective in an educational series aiming to help patients, caregivers and clinicians learn more about the mental health condition. John recently came to Boston to film a series of short videos for the series.

“I decided to share my experience because I know the power associated with exposure and advocacy,” John says. “As an ‘everyday’ guy, who has a wife, family and career, and who’s also had the MDD experience, it’s imperative — almost mandatory — for me to give expression to this disease. With the appropriate treatment, living with and getting through MDD is very possible. Remember you’re not alone.”

John says he hopes others will continue to open up about mental health, “especially those who have attained celebrity notoriety — their audience is usually vast, and this would place a recognizable face on the disease.”

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