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What Role Does Dopamine Play in the Development of Parkinson’s?

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According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, approximately one million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, and more than 60,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year. A chemical known as dopamine is one of the leading causes of Parkinson’s, and its presence can have a significant impact on your elderly loved one’s risk of developing the disease. The Fort Myers Parkinson’s care experts at Home Care Assistance want to share some facts about this important chemical.

What Is Dopamine?

Dopamine is a chemical produced by the brain that serves as a neurotransmitter to send signals from various parts of the brain to the rest of the body. Neurons in the areas of the brain known as the substantia nigra and basal ganglia are responsible for the production of dopamine. When these neurons die or are damaged, the amount of dopamine is reduced.

The Correlation Between Parkinson’s and Dopamine

As levels of dopamine drop, your loved one may begin to have difficulty regulating movement. Most people begin to notice Parkinson’s-related motor symptoms when approximately 60 to 80 percent of the dopamine-producing neurons are affected. Typical motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors and muscle rigidity.

How Dopamine Affects Parkinson’s Treatment

Most medicines used to treat Parkinson’s disease either stimulate the production of dopamine or trick the brain into thinking it is producing dopamine by acting on dopamine receptors. Levodopa, which is often used as the first treatment for Parkinson’s, produces dopamine when metabolized by the body. Unfortunately, levodopa can lose its effectiveness rather quickly. Dopamine agonist drugs, such as rotigotine, pergolide, cabergoline, and bromocriptine, are also used to stimulate dopamine receptors in the brain.

Dopamine and Dietary Considerations

Experts suggest a diet rich in antioxidants may help protect the dopamine-producing neurons of the brain. Tiny molecules known as free radicals can damage cells and tissue. These molecules have a special affinity for attacking dopamine-producing cells. Antioxidants act as scavengers that seek out and destroy free radicals, which can help your loved one lose less dopamine-producing cells over time. Some examples of antioxidant-rich foods include:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Red kidney beans
  • Garlic
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tea, coffee, and red wine

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish, are also essential nutrients for virtually all tissues in the body. You should encourage your loved one to eat fish at least twice a week.

If you loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it’s important he or she receives specialized care to manage its symptoms. At Home Care Assistance, our hourly and live-in caregivers can assist with mobility, provide medication reminders, prepare nutritious meals, and help with many other important daily tasks. For more information on in-home care Fort Myers families trust, please call one of our qualified Care Managers at 239.449.4701 today.