Tag Archives: Wellness

7 Healthy Habits For Your Brain

   “Your brain – every brain – is a work in progress. It is ‘plastic.’ From the day we’re born to the day we die, it continuously revises and remodels, improving or slowly declining, as a function of how we use it.” Michael Merzenich

“The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together.” Kurdish Saying

7 Basic Brain Facts [click here for more facts]: (1) The typical brain is ~2% of your total weight but it uses 20% of your total energy and oxygen intake. (2) >100,000 chemicals reactions/sec occur in your brain. (3) The latest estimate is that our brains contain ~86 billion brain cells. (4) In contrast to the popular belief that we use ~10% of our brains; brain scans show we use most of our brain most of the time. (5) There are as many as 10,000 specific types of neurons in the brain.  (6) Cholesterol is an integral part of every brain cell. Twenty-five percent of the body’s cholesterol resides within the brain. (7) Your brain generates between 12-25 watts of electricity, which is enough to power a low wattage LED light.

7 Healthy Habits for Your Brain: With or without Parkinson’s disease, taking care of your brain is all-important to your overall well-being, life-attitude, and health. These are  straightforward suggestions of healthy habits for your brain; hopefully, this list will serve as a reminder about their importance.  Here is a 1-page summary of the “7 Healthy Habits for Your Brain” (Click here to download file).

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[1] Exercise and neuroplasticity:
  Exercise is almost like a soothing salve for your brain.  Some benefits of exercise include helping your memory and increased flow of oxygen to brain, which energizes the brain.  Exercise is good for both your heart and your brain. Exercise can reduce inflammation in the brain and increase hormones circulating to your brain.  For a brief overview on the benefits of exercise to your brain, click here.

Neuroplasticity is the ability to re-draw, re-wire the connections in your brain. What this means is that neuroplasticity is a concerted attempt of neurons to compensate for brain injury/disease. Neuroplasticity ultimately modifies your brain’s activities in response to changes in these neuronal-environments.

There is much positive evidence in animal models of Parkinson’s regarding exercise-induced neuroplasticity.  The same benefits are now being tested in humans with Parkinson’s and the results are most encouraging. One of the numerous backlogged blog drafts that will be completed in the near-future is a “Review of Exercise and Neuroplasticity in Parkinson’s”.

“Exercise is really for the brain, not the body. It affects mood, vitality, alertness, and feelings of well-being.” John Ratey

“Neuroplasticity research showed that the brain changes its very structure with each different activity it performs, perfecting its circuits so it is better suited to the task at hand.” Naveen Jain

[2] Diet and brain food: Your memory is aided by ‘what’ you eat.  Harvard’s Women Health Watch makes the following suggestion to boost your memory through diet (click here to read entire article): “The Mediterranean diet includes several components that might promote brain health: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil help improve the health of blood vessels, reducing the risk for a memory-damaging stroke; Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to lower levels of beta-amyloid proteins in the blood and better vascular health; Moderate alcohol consumption raises levels of healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Alcohol also lowers our cells’ resistance to insulin, allowing it to lower blood sugar more effectively. Insulin resistance has been linked to dementia.”  WebMD summarized the role of diet and brain health in “Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain” (click here to read article).

A large group of women (>13,000 participants) over the age of 70 were studied and the results showed that the women who ate the most vegetables had the greater mental agility (click here to read the article). These results suggest for a healthy brain we should eat colorful fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants; and foods rich in natural vitamin E, vitamin C, B (B6, B12) folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. Furthermore, we should avoid refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. In small amounts, vitamin D3 is almost like candy for your brain.

“Hunger, prolonged, is temporary madness! The brain is at work without its required food, and the most fantastic notions fill the mind.” Jules Verne

“Everything one reads is nourishment of some sort – good food or junk food – and one assumes it all goes in and has its way with your brain cells.” Lorrie Moore

[3] Mindfulness/meditation: Greater Good (The Science of a Meaningful Life) describes mindfulness as “…maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think or feel in a given moment.”  I recently described mindfulness as “Mindfulness means you stay within your breath, and focus within yourself, with no remembrance of the past minute and no planning for the future moment.”  Here’s a simple mindfulness experience/moment: simply be aware of the steam leaving your morning cup of coffee/tea, clear your immediate thoughts, then sip, focus and savor this moment.

“The picture we have is that mindfulness practice increases one’s ability to recruit higher order, pre-frontal cortex regions in order to down-regulate lower-order brain activity,” a comment from Dr. Adrienne Taren, a researcher studying mindfulness at the University of Pittsburgh. She also said  “it’s the disconnection of our mind from its ‘stress center’ that seems to give rise to a range of physical as well as mental health benefits.”  (Click here to read this article).  “What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?” (click here to read more)

“Mindfulness practices enhance the connection between our body, our mind and everything else that is around us.” Nhat Hanh

“Mindfulness is a pause — the space between stimulus and response: that’s where choice lies.” Tara Brach

 [4] Stress reduction: When you are under constant or chronic stress your body makes more of the steroid hormone cortisol (a glucocorticoid), which is produced by the adrenal glands above your kidneys.  Over time, chronic stress can trigger changes in brain structure and function. Excess cortisol production reduces neuronal cells, over-produces myelin protective covering to our nerves, and we make more oligodendrocytes.  How do you reduce chronic stress?  Exercise and mindfulness/meditation are both able to lower cortisol levels.  Easier said then done to making life-style changes to reduce chronic stress; however, doing it will allow the neuroplastic process to begin re-wiring your brain. For an overview of stress and trying to manage/reduce chronic stress, click here.

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.” Natalie Goldberg

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Mahatma Gandhi

[5] Work, keep active mentally:  There are 2 sides to this topic.  First, stay engaged at work and you won’t age as fast as someone disengaged.  What I’m trying to say is simply staying active mentally at work will assist your brain during the ageing process.  Keep your brain stimulated with work, thought, challenges; the effort provides your brain with significant growth.  Your reward will be an active-focused and rejuvenated mind.  Second, by contrast, we’re all working long hours balancing too many tasks, all-the-time; ultimately, we’re trying to multi-task when we really can’t multi-task very well.  In a nice article entitled “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time“, Tony Schwartz summarized a key problem: “It’s not just the number of hours we’re working, but also the fact that we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time. What we’ve lost, above all, are stopping points, finish lines and boundaries.”  As you balance the 2-sides-of-the-topic, focus your energy on the first-side by performing each individual task/topic; clear your mind, keep your brain engaged, focus hard and then let your brain renew.

“To let the brain work without sufficient material is like racing an engine. It racks itself to pieces.” Arthur Conan Doyle

“A fresh mind keeps the body fresh. Take in the ideas of the day, drain off those of yesterday.” Edward Bulwer-Lytton

 [6] Positive and happy is better for your brain:  I truly believe you need to be positive in dealing with Parkinson’s; trying to focus on staying happy will benefit all-around you and bolster your brain’s health. Using positivity will allow you to creatively handle many obstacles ahead, whether in the absence or presence of Parkinson’s.  Susan Reynolds summarized in “Happy Brain, Happy Life” that being happy: “stimulates the growth of nerve connections; improves cognition by increasing mental productivity; improves your ability to analyze and think; affects your view of surroundings; increases attentiveness; and leads to more happy thoughts.”  On the notion of staying positive, she said: “…thinking positive, happy, hopeful, optimistic, joyful thoughts decreases cortisol and produces serotonin, which creates a sense of well-being. This helps your brain function at peak capacity.”


Positive

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou

“You have to train your brain to be positive just like you work out your body.” Shawn Achor

[7] Sleep: It’s simple; our brains, our bodies need sleep.  Many of us battle with less than adequate daily sleep habits.  However, it’s really simple; our brains, our bodies need sleep.  Much of our day’s success resides in the quality of sleep the night before.  The science of sleep is complex but much of it revolves around our brain.  We use sleep to renew and de-fragment our brain; and sleep helps strengthen our memory.  For more details on sleep science, please look over “What Happens in the Brain During Sleep?” (click here).  Alice G. Walton very nicely summarized several aspects of the sleep-brain interactions focusing on the following 7 headings: “Sleep helps solidify memory; Toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease, are cleared during sleep; Sleep is necessary for cognition; Creativity needs sleep; Sleep loss and depression are  intertwined; Physical health and longevity; and Kids need their sleep” [click here for “7 Ways Sleep Affects The Brain (And What Happens If It Doesn’t Get Enough)”].  Finally, the Rand Corp. just released a comprehensive study on sleep and the economic burden being caused by the lack of sleep (click here to read the 100-page report).

Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.Thomas Dekker

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.   Irish Proverb

A Personal Reflection on the “7 Healthy Habits for Your Brain”:  My fall semester is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining; and I cherish doing all of these tasks, I really do.  The writing of this blog is a deliberate attempt to remind me what I need to be doing, to re-initiate tomorrow in my daily life.  I could explain each point in detail in what poor-brain-health-habits I’ve developed this semester (but I won’t).  However, I am printing out the 1-page handout of 7-healthy-brain-habits to keep it with me as I spend the rest of December re-establishing effective habits for my brain; and doing a better job of balancing work with life-love-fun.

“Your body, which is bonding millions of molecules every second, depends on transformation. Breathing and digestion harness transformation. Food and air aren’t just shuffled about but, rather, undergo the exact chemical bonding needed to keep you alive. The sugar extracted from an orange travels to the brain and fuels a thought. The emergent property in this case is the newness of the thought; no molecules in the history of the universe ever combined to produce that exact thought.” Deepak Chopra

Cover image: https://img1.etsystatic.com/000/0/6392236/il_fullxfull.267319437.jpg

Mindfulness list: http://www.mindful.org/7-things-mindful-people-do-differently-and-how-to-get-started/

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Help with the Parkinson’s Tremor

“The starting point of all achievement is desire.” Napoleon Hill

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” Ronald Reagan

The Journey With Parkinson’s returns:  The past 2 months have just consumed every waking moment of my time/life, and then some.  I have a back-log of >20 blog posts in some finished-form-or-another. Starting this weekend, I will be able to spend more time researching, thinking, and writing on the blog (and the past 2 month gap between blog posts will be explained in a story entitled “Work in the Presence of Parkinson’s”).

Core movement disorder aspects of Parkinson’s: Most people-with-Parkinson’s have some or most of these manifestations: tremor, bradykinesia, postural instability and rigidity. They are considered the “Cardinal Signs” of Parkinson’s; here is a brief overview.

Resting Tremor: A vast majority of people-with-Parkinson’s will have this ‘type’ of tremor (for a tremor tutorial click here). The tremor consists of a shaking motion, which happens at rest. The affected body part will be in motion when it is not performing an action. The tremor will stop when a person moves this body part. Not all people with Parkinson’s will develop a tremor; or like me, they have another kind of tremor.

Bradykinesia (“slow movement”): A general loss of spontaneous body movement. Bradykinesia causes problems with repetitive motion. Bradykinesia can alter the speed of performance of many everyday events like buttoning shirt-buttons, fastening car seatbelt, or chopping food.

Postural Instability: Postural instability is a tendency to be unstable when standing upright. A person with postural instability has lost some of the reflexes needed for maintaining an upright position.

Rigidity: Rigidity causes stiffness and inflexibility of the limbs, neck and trunk. Muscles normally stretch when they move, and then relax when they are at rest.  By contrast, in Parkinson’s that body part remains taut when it moves and does not relax.

Smart-spoon: The “Google Spoon” came first (click here), and it oscillates to counter the negative oscillation of your hand (click here).  You can check on-line to determine whether or not your tremor can be helped by this spoon.

And now a helping hand:  “The invention that helped me write again” (Click here to see video).  My colleague, good friend and golf buddy Nigel saw the story on BBC News.  Technology is evolving; all it takes is an understanding of the problem, a design strategy, and significant effort to create such a device.  It also takes intelligence, talent and diligence to be able to make a device that allowed someone with Parkinson’s and a significant tremor to be able to write and draw again.  Great story, and simply an amazing device!

“The trouble with much of the advice business gets today about the need to be more vigorously creative is that its advocates often fail to distinguish between creativity and innovation. Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things… The shortage is of innovators…” Tom Peters

Cover photo credit: http://vb3lk7eb4t.search.serialssolutions.com/?V=1.0&L=VB3LK7EB4T&S=JCs&C=TC0001578421&T=marc

2016 Whitehead Lecture: Advice, Life Stories and the Journey with Parkinson’s

“In giving advice I advise you, be short.” Horace

“The journey is what brings us happiness not the destination.” Dan Millman

Introduction: Last month, I presented the Whitehead Lecture to the UNC School of Medicine (SOM).  Here is what that means: “The annual Whitehead Lecture serves as an unofficial convocation for the School of Medicine. It is named in honor of Dr. Richard Whitehead, dean of the School of Medicine from 1890 to 1905. The Whitehead Lecturer is chosen by the SOM medical student governing body (Whitehead Medical Society). The selection is based on qualities of leadership, dedication, and devotion to medicine and teaching. Being elected to deliver the Whitehead Lecture is among the highest honors for faculty members at the School of Medicine.” (excerpted from https://www.med.unc.edu/md/events-awards/academic-calendars-events/whitehead-lecture).

In my 30-something year academic career at UNC-CH this was the biggest honor I’ve  received from the School of Medicine.  Here is a link to the news article written about my ~15-min lecture and the other teaching awards given to faculty, residents/fellows, and medical students (click here).

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Themes of Advice:  Below is a summary of the advice I gave to UNC-CH medical students to help them through their medical school journey (realizing I’m not a physician but a medical educator/biomedical researcher).  The lecture was divided up into 4 chapters: Chapter 1: Conflict of Interest Statement (this was done to start lightheartedly and to ‘try’ to be funny); Chapter 2: Core Values Learned from Growing up an “Air Force Brat” (childhood memories of my dad, Col. Church)Chapter 3: Life Stories and Advice Using Words that Begin with “H” (I  made a word-cloud with numerous words/phrases, e.g., Hope, Happy, Hospital, and Healthy Habits Harbor Happiness); and Chapter 4: Conclusions.

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The advice/stories were accompanied by numerous pictures and my own personal-life-events to emphasize my side of my own advice.  Advice I tried to convey to the medical students regarding my Parkinson’s disease was as follows: (a) acceptance and adaptation while still living positively; (b) adversity is rarely planned but you must be proactive as it accompanies life; and (c) a wide range of illness (from good to bad) accompanies most disorders; thus, it matters how you approach and treat each individual person (patient) with every disorder.

“My definition of success: When your core values and self-concept are in harmony with your daily actions and behaviors.” John Spence

“Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way.” Satchel Paige

Chapter 1: Conflict of Interest Statement:

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Chapter 2: Core Values Learned from Growing up as an “Air Force Brat:

slide1Core Value of Integrity:
A cornerstone of my dad’s influence on me was integrity, to always be honest.
Everything I did growing up needed teamwork and integrity added strength to each team.
•Your integrity leads you forward.
“Be as you wish to seem.” Socrates

Core Value of Service:
The USAF interpretation of service is a commitment to serve your country before self.
My commitment to service and to helping others is through education and biomedical research.
•Your own service enriches your life.
“To work for the common good is the greatest creed.” Albert Schweitzer

Core Value of Excellence:
The core value of excellence revolves around doing the task proudly and right.
My dad instilled in me the notion to work hard, centered on excellence because the task mattered no matter the importance of the task.
Through this same excellence, your life matters.
“Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” John W. Gardner

Chapter 3: Life Stories and Advice Using Words that Begin with “H”:

slide08Help/Helpful/Helped:
There will be times when classmates, team members, and patients ask you for help/advice; always try to be helpful.
You may need to be helped on some topic-issue; that is totally okay, you are not expected to do it all by yourself.
“If
you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.” Gautama Buddha

Colleagues Who Have Helped Me To Become A Better Educator:
A very important part of my career is centered around medical education.  I am fortunate to have colleagues who are gifted teachers, who serve as wonderful role models, and who have given me sound advice/feedback on new teaching strategies and educational ideas.
This group includes Dr. Alice Ma, Dr. Tom Belhorn, SOM Teaching Champions (Dr. Kurt Gilliland, Dr. Ed Kernick, Dr. Gwen Sancar, Dr. Arrel Toews, Dr. Marianne Meeker, Dr. Sarah Street and this group included me), Dr. Joe Costello, Johanna Foster and Katie Smith.
Since joining the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine as an Assistant Professor (1987), I have had the privilege of teaching ~6,000 students (26 years of medical students x ~170 students/year = 4,420; 23 years of graduate students x ~20 students/year = 460; and 20 years of ~75 undergraduates/year = 1,500).

Find Your Holy Grail in Higher Education:
Challenge yourself, be goal-directed and discover where your passion resides (it could be patient care, research, education, service, policy, outreach, etc.).
Stay engaged in pursuit of your hallmark in higher education, which becomes your very own Holy Grail.
If you’re not happy, keep searching.
“What is known as success assumes nearly as many aliases as there are those who seek it. Like the Holy Grail, it seldom appears to those who don’t pursue it.” Stephen Birmingham

My Holy Grail in Higher Education (Hemostasis-Thrombosis Research):
34 years ago, 1982, I began my postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Roger Lundblad. Since 1986, as a basic biomedical researcher in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine [Research Assistant Professor (1985-1986), Assistant Professor (1987-1994), Associate Professor (with tenure, 1994-1999), and Professor (with tenure, 1999-present)] , I have had a wonderful and enriching academic research career that has helped train over 100 scientists: 17 graduate students; 12 postdoctoral fellows; 17 medical students; and 65 undergraduates.
My research (Holy Grail) is centered on:
Biological Chemistry of Coagulation Proteases and their Serine Protease Inhibitors (Serpins);
-Aging
and Senescence-linked to the Pathophysiology of Venous
Thrombosis;
-Funding through NIH (NHLBI, NIA, and NINDS), American Heart Association, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Shown below left is the antithrombin/thrombin/heparin complex and below right, a 30-year history of some of the former/current lab personnel (1987, 2003, and 2016).

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Handle Adversity in Your Journey:
We have expectations of what life should be like and what it should offer us; instead, accept what life gives you at the moment.
When life presents an obstacle, do your best to
handle adversity in your journey.
Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” Bernice Johnson Reagon

slide17Handling Adversity in My Journey:
Parkinson’s is a slowly progressing neurodegenerative disorder from the loss of dopamine-producing cells.
Dealing with an incurable disease like Parkinson’s is different than living with a terminal illness; you must accept that it’s part of your life for years to come.
Strive to live-forward, and always remember that we’re still in the driver’s seat of our world. Live decisively even as we accept the problems from Parkinson’s.” Frank C. Church

slide19Home Is Where The Heart Is:
1.Home is where the heart is. You love the place best which you call your home. That is where your heart lives.
2.Home is where the heart is. Wherever you feel most at home is where you feel you belong. That is where your heart is.
3.Your home may change many times over the coming years. Let your heart tell you where your home is.

Home Is Where My Heart Is (or Has Been for the Past 50 Years):
On a tennis court and on a golf course;
In a research laboratory and in a classroom teaching;
With family/loved ones.
“Let your heart tell you where your home is.”  Frank C. Church

home

Health (Heal, Healed, Healer):
Your foundation of knowledge is expanding to allow you to make decisions related to someone’s health.
You’ll likely encounter a spectrum of illness in your patients; health is like a rheostat that ranges from good to bad, mild to severe. Remember, you are treating a person with a disorder/illness.
“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” William Osler

Health (Heal, Healed, Healer) From My Perspective With Parkinson’s:
A Google search for “Parkinson’s disease: Images” shows these drawings from the 1880’s are still very prevalent (below left panel).
Yes, they accurately show the Cardinal signs of Parkinson’s: tremor, rigidity from muscle stiffness, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), postural instability, and facial masking.
However, these images suggest to many that all people-with-Parkinson’s must look and act like this.
An emerging picture of Parkinson’s today is (hopefully, below right panel) a person embracing an appropriate lifestyle with a treatment plan to manage and live with their symptoms.
My daily mantra: “Never give up; I refuse to surrender to Parkinson’s.” Frank C. Church

health

Chapter 4: Conclusions:
I am most pleased to welcome all of the new medical students (MS-1’s) to medical school and to everyone else, we’re glad you’re here.
The “USAF core values” could be of some use in your professional career and in your personal life.
Remember the “words that begin with the letter H”; they could be both supportive and comforting in your years of training.
We have one final “H word” to get through but I need YOUR voices…

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“I believe that curiosity, wonder and passion are defining qualities of imaginative minds and great teachers; that restlessness and discontent are vital things; and that intense experience and suffering instruct us in ways that less intense emotions can never do.” Kay Redfield Jamison

Cover photo credit: Frank Church

Home Is Where The Heart Is: (1) and (2) partly adapted from Anila Syed, Wordophile.

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Believe in Life in the Presence of Parkinson’s

“Life is not only merriment, it is desire and determination.” Kahlil Gibran

“Nothing will work unless you do.” Maya Angelou

Dedication: I recently participated in a Parkinson Wellness Recovery (PWR!) Instructor Workshop in Greenville, SC (July 30-31, 2016); now I am certified in PWR!Moves.  This post is dedicated to the workshop instructor Jennifer Bazan-Wigle; and to my classmates, all of the personal trainers interested in working with Parkinson’s disease patients.  Jennifer was simply a great instructor, with a real understanding of Parkinson’s and a true ability to ‘teach’.  The personal trainers who participated were very dedicated in their effort to master PWR!Moves and their willingness to instruct me during the weekend workshop made for a memorable experience.  And not to forget Steve Miller, a PWR!Moves instructor, who also helped teach; you were the inspiration that led me to apply for this workshop. To everyone certified in PWR!Moves and to those involved in my PWR!Moves workshop, thank you, thank you so very much.

PWR! Logo

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” Beverly Sills

Introduction: Coach Lou Holtz said “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”  This got me thinking about ability, motivation and attitude but especially how vital both motivation and attitude are for living successfully with Parkinson’s.

Believe in Life in the Presence of Parkinson’s:
I’m a healthy person that happens to have Parkinson’s; this is what I believe:
I believe daily exercise enhances my life in the presence of Parkinson’s.
I believe people-with-Parkinson’s can become healthier with exercise.
I believe sustained exercise can promote neuroplasticity to re-wire my neural network.
I believe I have the ability to do the repetitions to re-train my brain.
I believe staying positive will help control the course of my Parkinson’s.
I believe having courage will provide mettle in the battle against my disorder.
I believe being persistent allows me to restrain my Parkinson’s.
I believe motivation begins from within, and there can be no backing down to this disease.
I believe if I don’t give up I can slow the progression of my disorder.
I believe if you pity me it feeds the hunger of my Parkinson’s.
I believe if you join my team, you can help me stall this slowly evolving disorder.
I believe attitude is the fuel to sustain the effort to combat Parkinson’s.
I believe in science that new therapies/strategies against Parkinson’s are on the horizon.
I believe exercise with ability, motivation and attitude will work to my advantage each day.
I believe that each new day renews my chance of slowing the beast named Parkinson’s.
My daily mantra is to never give up; I refuse to surrender to Parkinson’s.

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” Mahatma Gandhi

Cover photo credit: https://c7.staticflickr.com/9/8615/16157237102_f15e505c19_b.jpg

 

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The 23andMe Parkinson’s Research Study

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Sagan

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” Colin Powell

Introduction/Background: Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement. It evolves slowly, usually starting as either stiffness in a hand or a small tremor. Over time, Parkinson’s progresses; typically characterized by motor symptoms such as slowness of movement (bradykinesia) with rigidity, resting tremor (Parkinsonian tremor), balance and walking problems, and difficulty swallowing and talking. Parkinson’s has several non-motor symptoms including anxiety, depression, insomnia  and psychosis (just to mention a few). ~60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed each year in the United States, adding to the greater than one million people who currently have Parkinson’s.  It has been estimated that 7-10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s.

“Enclose your heart in times of need with the steel of your determination and your strength. In doing this, all things will be bearable.” Lora Leigh

Genetic Testing and Introduction/Background to 23andMe:
What is the “Central Dogma of Life”? (click here) The process of how the information and instructions found in DNA to become a functional protein is termed the ‘Central Dogma’.  The concept of the central dogma was first proposed in 1958 by Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA. The central dogma states that the pattern of information that occurs most frequently in our cells is as follows: (i) use existing DNA to make new DNA  (replication); (ii) next, from DNA to make new RNA (transcription); and (iii) finally, using RNA to synthesize new protein (translation). The drawing below depicts the central dogma (the drawing is from this video, click here).


23andMe: What does the name 23andMe represent? Our genetic material  (genes) are housed in chromosomes and they are composed of DNA. We have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell capable of producing new proteins; thus, the name of the company makes sense.  23andMe provides DNA testing services.  The information derived from studying your DNA and genetic make-up can provide information about your ancestry, your genetic predisposition to many different diseases, drug responses and inherited conditions.

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“When burned on a CD, the human genome is smaller than Microsoft Office.” Steve Jurvetson

There’s an old saying that goes “Mother is always right.”:  My mother said for her entire life that we were English, Scottish (or Irish), French and German in our ancestral ‘gene pool’.  Several years ago, my extended family and I took to spitting into the 23andMe test-tubes.  We mailed them back to the company to establish our genetic history and screen our family gene pool for several diseases and their inherited susceptibility. Guess what?  Mom was absolutely right about our family ancestry.  Interestingly, there was no evidence of early onset Parkinson’s in my extended family; thus, my disorder is the sporadic/idiopathic type of Parkinson’s.

“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” Agatha Christie

The 23andMe Parkinson’s research study: A few years ago, 23andMe decided to better understand the genetics of Parkinson’s disease; thus, the Parkinson’s research initiative.  Their goal is as follows: to understand the genetic associations found between Parkinson’s patients’ DNA and our disease; to take this new knowledge and search for a cure; and ultimately, they strive to enhance and speed-up how Parkinson’s disease is studied to better understand the genetics of the disease (click here to read further details) It’s easy to get involved in the 23andMe Parkinson’s research study, here are the eligibility requirements: (1) You have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by a qualified physician; (2) You are willing to submit a saliva sample for DNA testing and complete online surveys related to your condition; (3) You have access to the internet; and (4) You are at least 18 years old.  The flow-chart below shows all one has to do to join this community of people-with-Parkinson’s helping out to search for a cure.
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23andMe has an impressive group of  primary research partners and several other organizations as supporting partners, see below. To date, more than 10,000 people have agreed to be in 23andMe’s Parkinson’s Research Community, which makes it the world’s largest collective of genotyped Parkinson’s patients. Furthermore, many thousands of people without Parkinson’s have also consented to participate in these research studies.

16.07.21.2 “Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.” Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

It’s a personal decision and choice, but it’s also advancing our knowledge of Parkinson’s:  If you have concerns, look over the 3 websites cited below.  The question is should you volunteer your DNA for the study?  Should you consent to have your DNA further sequenced?  And the nice thing about being involved is you don’t have to leave your home to participate; it’s an in-house study in that they mail you the tube/device, you spit into it, and mail it back to 23andMe.  Simple. Valuable. Straightforward. Elegant.  Contributing. Joining the Parkinson’s team.

7 Things You Should Know About The Future Of Your Genetic Data (click here)
23andMe DNA Test Review: It’s Right For Me But Is It Right for You? (click here)
DNATestingChoice.com (click here for a review of 23andMe)

Ponder it, think about it some more, possibly fill out the questionnaire, upload the information, you are now part of the Parkinson’s 23andMe team. Why should you participate? You will be providing your own small piece to the Parkinson’s genetic puzzle; help complete the assembly of the landscape to this amazing puzzle.

You will matter whether you participate or not; you will always matter.  However, congratulate yourself if you decide to join the team; the 23andMe Parkinson’s research study.  You can be part of the unraveling and the delineation of the genetic anomalies that cause Parkinson’s.

“It is ironic that in the same year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA, some would have us ban certain forms of DNA medical research. Restricting medical research has very real human consequences, measured in loss of life and tremendous suffering for patients and their families.” Michael J. Fox

Cover photo credit: http://www.hdwallpapersact.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/ summer-sunset-on-beach-hd.jpg

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Chapter 9: A Parkinson’s Reading Companion on Journey

“Accept what comes. In fact, be grateful for it. Be the one who sees opportunity in any circumstance, the one who doesn’t blink when looking into fate’s eyes.” (from a dear friend of a classmate, Carolyn Huang)

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be” J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Précis: “Thought-filled Responses” is a part of my undergraduate course, “Biology of Blood Diseases”; students submitted quotes on (five or more) hope, courage, journey, persistence, positivity, strength, adversity, mindfulness, and life (for further details click here). The current post is Chapter 9 including all of their quotes about ‘journey’ [click here to read Chapter 1 (hope); click here to read Chapter 2 (life); click here to read Chapter 3 (strength); click here to read Chapter 4 (adversity); click here to read Chapter 5 (positivity); click here to read Chapter 6 (courage); click here to read Chapter 7 (persistence); click here to read Chapter 8 (mindfulness)].

The Journey With Parkinson’s: There is no doubt that we are all on a journey with life, with differing destinations and widely varied paths.  When I think about living with Parkinson’s, I  feel it’s somewhat analogous to white water rafting (e.g., rafting the New or Lower Gauley Rivers in West Virginia): sometimes you’re paddling fiercely without going forward; yet a few minutes later you are not paddling and you can relax and enjoy the view; and then your team is paddling in sync as you progress down the river through its many changing rapids. The  obstacles of this disorder are always present and our journey will be a challenge. The journey with Parkinson’s requires effort, teamwork, awareness, and a heart-fueled positive attitude to keep going. May these quotes on journey inspire you to live-positively as you strive for wellness in the presence of Parkinson’s .

Journey:  I am pleased to present Chapter 9 about journey with my co-authors: Angle, Hannah; Arthur, Kallie; Artov, Michael; Bagley, Kendall; Batista, Kayla; Blaylock, Allison; Byrd, Emory; Cabell, Grant; Catalano, Michael; Clark, Kendall; Cossaart, Kristen; Culpepper, Houston; Das, Snigdha; Davis, Eric; Defazio, Stephanie; Doudnikoff, Alex; Dua, Shawn; Evans, Jessica; Evick, Andrew; Farooque, Tazeen; Ford, Kelsey; German, Zachary; Gouveia, Katie; Hall, Nikita; Isler, Victoria; Kirkley, Joel; Koutleva, Elitza; Laudun, Katie; Le, Kevin; Little, Sarah; Mackey, Josselyn; Macon, Briana; Maddox, Kaity; Marquino, Grace; Mattox, Daniel; Mcknight, Kyle; Mcmanus, Brenna; Mcshane, Sarah; Monkiewicz, Caroline; Nguyen, Michelle; Nguyen, Teresa; Olinger, Emily; Patel, Darshan; Patel, Dilesh; Patel, Jenny; Perez, Abby; Peters, Daniel; Quirin, Julia; Rawlins, Shelby; Raynor, Nathan; Renn, Matt; Scott, Alicia; Sherry, Alex; Shin, Christine; Stanton, Kate; Story, Charlotte; Swango, Summer; Szyperski, Caroline; Windley, Taylor; Wooley, Caleb; Xu, Alice; Yang, Michelle.

“And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” Lee Ann Womack

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Jimmy Dean

“Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.” Doug Ivester

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Maya Angelou

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

”Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Epicurus

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional”  John Maxwell

“Little by little, one travels far.” J.R. Tolkien

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” T.S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot

Every man dies, not every man truly lives.” William Wallace

“Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.” Winnie the Pooh

“Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing, moderation is for cowards.” -Ballad of the frogman (Navy SEALs thing)

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are.” Joss Whedon

“Let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path.” Dieter F Uchtdorf

“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C.S. Lewis

“To get through the hardest journey, we only need to take one step at a time, but we must keep stepping.” Rachel Kennedy

“There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.” Anonymous

“Life’s a roller coaster. You can either scream every time there is a bump, or you can throw your hands up and enjoy the ride.” Unknown

“Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”  Edgar Allan Poe

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.” Anonymous

“All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost. The old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost.” JRR Tolkein

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people’s minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life maybe empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves.” Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

“It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ursula Le Guin

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carrol

“Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.” George Whitefield

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl

“Beware of Destination Addiction – a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.” Robert Holden

“Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it.” John Mayer

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

“The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.” Chinese Proverb

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Robert Frost

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” Marcel Proust

“I am fated to journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the surging immensity of life, to survey it through the laughter that all can see and through the tears unseen and unknown by anyone.” Nikolai Gogol

“If my ship sails from sight, it doesn’t mean my journey ends, it simply means the river bends.” Enoch Powell

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” -Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! 

Cover photo credit: http://www.free-hdwallpapers.com/wallpapers/nature3/71540-nature-974.jpg

Hope in the Presence of Parkinson’s

“Never lose faith in yourself, and never lose hope; remember, even when this world throws its worst and then turns its back, there is still always hope.” Pittacus Lore

“Hope is a function of struggle.” Brené Brown

Beginning of the story: Tuesday, I drove from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Blacksburg, Virginia (~3 1/2 hours, mainly driving on Interstate roads covered with blowing snow)  to present a workshop on Wednesday at the “8th Annual Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy.”  Crossing into Virginia and stopping at the rest area, I realized the whole right side of my neck was stiff; I began to wonder.  Was the stiffness due to the stress of Interstate driving in less-than-ideal weather? Was the stiffness due to playing golf with my golf buddy Nigel last Sunday [we played and walked 18 holes in <4 hours in 40°F  weather that was  cloudy, windy, and cold]? Or was this some new manifestation of my Parkinson’s? This was different than my daily early morning physical inventory; this was reminiscent of my pre-Parkinson’s (before beginning therapy) stiffness.  I turned to hope, determination and logical reasoning to answer my problem.

“While the heart beats, hope lingers.” Alison Croggon

To have perseverance is to be hopeful: We go through many up-and-down periods in our life, work, love, and health. A part of the lesson of our life’s tale is how we respond to these challenges; you can either take the high road or take the low road but you must pick a path.  Having a disorder like Parkinson’s clearly presents a living-challenge that you must decide how to navigate these obstacles as they occur. You can choose to ignore the slowly progressing but annoying symptoms; however, they never take a break regardless of your reaction to them. Therefore, it really helps to remain persistent, stay positive, be focused, and use hope to keep your reservoir filled to the brim.

“Hope is a verb with its shirtsleeves rolled up.” David Orr

Hope is the beacon you use when you’re surrounded by foggy darkness:  To me, hope is a source of clarity. If you remain hopeful, there’s a strong likelihood that you will succeed in your endeavors. If you abandon hope, a cloud could cover your thoughts and your reaction may be less balanced. In managing a chronic progressive illness, you’re sometimes making decisions almost hourly about what to do next, how best to respond, thinking what is going to happen next?  Reminding yourself there is hope allows you to more easily plan the response and follow the appropriate path.  In managing life activities, it really helps to follow pathways that bring you lasting support while remaining hopeful.

We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming – well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate.” Amy Tan

Life difficulties and struggles with the backdrop of residual hope:  There is no doubt we all have different obstacles in life; to paraphrase the thought that many years ago we set sail on the open waters instead of being securely anchored in the harbor. Nelson Mandela  said “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”   And one of my opening quotes was from Brené Brown, “Hope is a function of struggle.”   What these words tell me is simply that with or without a disorder like Parkinson’s, we are much alike in life.  And it is how we respond to these difficult moments and troublesome situations that will help to define our life.  And I am convinced our responses to these life-challenges is better wherever there is hope.  Below is a Brené Brown video on the profound nature, meaning and impact of hope (if the video doesn’t play for you, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJo4qXbz4G4&feature=youtu.be&t=35):

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” G.K. Chesterton

Hope in the presence of Parkinson’s: Our life-lease begins anew each morning we awake, and it extends throughout the day-evening; the renewal begins with the reward of sleep.  Surrounding our bed cover is Parkinson’s, waiting for us to surrender to its ever present grasp.  Instead, we resist with all our might. We set goals to achieve in its presence. We follow a path that favors happiness in the background of certain/uncertain Parkinson’s progression.  We stay positive, we remain determined, and always with perseverance we stand firm. Finally, combined together with hope, we continue, we live, we continue to live, and we continue to live well and strong in the presence of Parkinson’s.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” Robert Fulghum from “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”

Cover photo credit: http://newtopwallpapers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Beautiful-Scenery-of-Winter-Season.jpg