April 25, 2023

April Is National Parkinson's Awareness Month

By Guest Blogger Anna Grill, Founder, Young Onset Parkinson's Network

Parkinson’s Awareness Month is recognized in April, but do you know why? April is the birth month of James Parkinson, the London physician who was the first to describe a Parkinson's disease (PD) case in 1817. At that time, he was most known for authoring "An Essay on the Shaking Palsy," in which he described "paralysis agitans." The term Parkinson’s disease, as we know it, wasn’t coined until about 60 years later.

PD is the most prevalent neurological disease in the world and Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD; diagnosis before age 50) is the fastest-growing subsegment. A majority of the young-onset demographic is either starting a promising career or thriving in their work field when diagnosed, which at the initial onset complicates their career progressions and current plans.

It’s not uncommon for young-onset patients to have small children or plan on starting a family. It puts a strain on the family dynamic and relationship between partners, and also has a significant impact on kids who are too young to fully understand or cope with what’s happening to their affected parent.

Physical fitness is the only activity proven to slow the progression of YOPD. The type of exercise that has shown the most promising results is high-intensity cardio workouts sustained for 30-45 minutes at least 5 times a week. Finding an activity that not only meets these parameters but is also enjoyable to the patient, is imperative for living with YOPD.  

It can be challenging to find support with YPOD. Most of the resources and support opportunities are designed for older age groups. Exercise classes are scheduled during the middle of the workday and workout intensity levels are lower. Articles about discussing your diagnosis with your kids assume that they’re adults and not elementary schoolers — It’s time-consuming to sift through everything to find content that’s applicable to you. Young Onset Parkinson’s Network aims to serve the YOPD subset of patients that are typically underserved. 

Young Onset Parkinson’s Network is a nonprofit, educational, and charitable organization for those diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD) as well as the individuals related to and/or caring for those with the disease. The organization seeks to increase awareness of YOPD by providing information, resources, and services to help members strengthen their minds and body within a supportive community. Through its network, YOPN members have the holistic support needed to manage and thrive with this unexpected, early diagnosis.

To learn more visit YOPNetwork.org.

Editor’s note: Allsup helps individuals living with Parkinson's apply for SSDI and return to work.