Some aspects of Parkinson’s disease are not popular conversation topics in the PD community. They are the shadow issues too delicate to cast light on routinely. Think cognitive loss and dying.

The Parkinson’s disease Foundation called my attention to a new study of cognitive loss in PD. University of Pennsylvania researchers followed 141 PD patients who had normal cognition at the beginning of the study. They found that 47.4% of the patients progressed to what’s called mild cognitive impairment after six years. MCI is a loss of some thinking, memory, language and judgment capacity.

The real attention getter in this study is that every participant who was diagnosed with MCI during the study progressed to dementia within five years. Hope is what drives us in our struggle with PD. But we can’t let that necessary hope blind us to the reality of significant cognitive dangers down the road.


I came across a provocative essay that appeared in the New York Review of Books this year. Marcia Angell, the former executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, wrote it. It was a long review of a moving book that I have read but not commented on in this blog.

When I read the book, it sparked my interest in the palliative care movement. The reason was Gawande powerfully documents through individual case studies how very often medicine ill serves patients at the end of life. Where comfort measures are called for, intense, costly, ultimately futile rescue efforts are often inflicted on patients who would prefer prefer otherwise. Both the book and the essay are worth your attention. Book details:
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul Gawande
Metropolitan, 282 pp., $26.00


Nicotine occupies a strange role in Parkinson’s. My interest as a cigar smoker is large in this issue. For some unknown reason nicotine appears to protect against PD onset and might even slow the progress of the disease. The prospect that a known carcinogen might just be helpful in PD it is almost laughable. The review article on the subject is provocative.


I’m entering my third week of the exercise program Rock Steady Boxing, which I have described an earlier blog post. I continue to be very impressed with the able physical therapists and the results I am experiencing.
Over the last two weeks I’ve experienced only one PD “down” day. You know, those blah days when it feels like you have the flu. Before the boxing program, I was experiencing those bad days about one day in five. Rock steady is available only in Largo in the Bay Area at present. That makes for a long Drive for Hillsborough PD patients, especially in rush hour. Program Director Tara Schwartz tells me she hopes to have a second program located either in or much closer to Hillsborough County by the end of 2016. That’s very good news indeed.

Parkinson's Disease, Parkinson's exercise

I’m Boxing Against My Parkinson’s

I now have boxing gloves. Red ones.

I have signed on to a rigorous exercise program called Rock Steady Boxing. It is offered in Largo, FL at Bodyssey gym on Walsingham Road not far from the beach.

For now, the Largo location is the only one in the Tampa Bay area. That’s a 70-minute haul from our Hillsborough manse, in the best of traffic conditions. If the franchise program is as good as its press and promise, I bet it will soon jump the bay into Tampa.

Rock Steady has received a great deal of positive, anecdotal notice lately on CBS TV, local TV and in the Tampa Bay Newspapers (TBN) weekly group. From my two visits, I think the Rock Steadiers are on to something very promising.

TBN reporter Chris George got there before I did. Gym owner Tara Schwartz pitched program benefits this way to George: “ The studies have shown that forced intense exercise has slowed the progression of Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s slows the conduction of the nerve to the muscle, so everything slows down. Boxing does the absolute opposite of that. And it’s a non-contact form of boxing.”

Good elevator speech, Tara. I watched one day. Signed up and worked out the next. Ninety intense minutes to pulsating music and demanding, disciplined but supportive instructors: “elbows up…jab, jab, hook…chest out, stomach in…just 10 more seconds.”

By coincidence, I just ran across this article about intense exercise and how it relieves Parkinson’s symptoms. It talks about yoga but the principles also apply to boxing.

Schwartz’s class typically has 12 to 15 participants who work out ideally at least three days a week. Said Schwartz: “While focusing on overall fitness, strength training, reaction time and balance, workouts include: ring work, focus mitts, heavy bags, speed bags, double ended bags, jump rope, core work, calisthenics and circuit weight training. No boxing experience is necessary and people of all ages are invited to participate.” For more details, check out her website, including fees.

The session I attended ran 90 minutes and had 30 minutes of stretching exercises, 30 minutes of weight training and 30 minutes of working on the punching bags. I intend to give you periodic updates on my progress and impression of the program as I go forward.

One follow up to the palliative care conference in Denver follows: