Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Parkinson Disease

General Guidelines for Managing Parkinson’s Disease

Living a healthful lifestyle is thought to help control symptoms of Parkinson disease. Lifestyle changes seem to be particularly helpful in the early stages of Parkinson disease and may help you delay the start of medications.

Get Adequate Rest

Try to sleep approximately 8 hours per night. Consider taking 1-2 naps during the day to stay refreshed. Consult your doctor if symptoms, such as restless leg syndrome, rapid eye movement (REM)-behavior disorder, tremor, or difficulty turning in bed at night, are interfering with your ability to sleep.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Consider consulting a dietitian to learn about a healthful diet. Eating well can give you more energy and help you manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Later in the disease, changes may have to be made to your diet because of swallowing difficulties. This may include a diet of soft or chopped foods, or thickened liquids. It is important to keep an eye on your weight, especially weight loss. Malnutrition can worsen the symptoms of Parkinson disease.

Exercise Regularly

An exercise program can offer many benefits, such as:

  • Increasing strength
  • Improving stamina
  • Optimizing coordination
  • Decreasing rigidity
  • Improving flexibility
  • Delaying progression of disease

Your doctor can recommend a physical therapist for you to work with. You may also want to try Tai Chi, a type of martial art that is used to promote health. This form of exercise has shown benefits in improving balance in those with Parkinson disease.

Your doctor can give you information about fall prevention if balance and coordination are a problem. If needed, you can also use a cane or walker for further support.

Participate in a Speech Therapy Program

Speech therapy can be useful in some people who have verbal communication impairment. Impairment may include an inability to speak loud enough.

Manage Your Stress

Stress is known to worsen the symptoms of Parkinson disease. Learning stress management can help control your symptoms.

Facing a chronic, progressive disease is very stressful for everyone involved. Depression is extremely common in people with Parkinson disease. Talk to your doctor about support groups in your area. It can be extremely valuable to share your challenges and triumphs with others who are also coping with the condition. If you experience depressive symptoms that last 2 weeks or longer, contact your doctor. Depression is treatable.

Modify the Home to Enhance Safety and Access

Many individuals require access to safety equipment that can assist in improving quality of life. Occupational and physical therapists can assist in determining when equipment such as tub rails, raised toilet seats or other home modifications may be useful.


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Last reviewed November 2016 by Rimas Lukas, MD  Last Updated: 5/20/2015