The Parkinson’s Disease Support Group met Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the McGee Center with a very large group in attendance.

Dr. Walter Lajara-Nanson, MD, was the special guest speaker. Dr. Lajara-Nanson is a Movement Disorder specialist from Bartlesville, Okla. The title of his presentation was "Living Well With PD — Understanding Parkinson’s Disease and Current Treatments." Dr. Lajara-Nanson’s presentation covered a comprehensive overview of Parkinson’s Disease from when Dr. James Parkinson first described it as a disease in 1817 to the present time with medicines, treatments, and research.

The causes of PD are not known but experts believe it is a result of interaction between genetic and environmental causes. Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic, progressive disease in which ordinary movement and other symptoms may worsen oven time. Dopamine produced in the brain helps control movement. When there is a loss of dopamine, it leads to difficulty controlling movement.

At the present time, there are four PD medications: Levodopa which replaces dopamine; COMT inhibitors which preserve levodopa; Dopamine agonists which mimic dopamine; and MAO-B inhibitors which preserve existing dopamine.

Dr. Lajara-Nanson encouraged those present to take their medicines as directed by their doctor as best they can as this helps the medicine work better.

He discussed the importance of acting early as experts believe it may be important. Studies show early untreated patients worsen in both symptoms and quality of life. Patients need to see a neurologist early and work with their PD Management Team — their primary care physician, neurologist, nurse, caregiver, physical therapist, and occupational therapist. He strongly encouraged patients to make some plans early on with their families about what will happen later as the disease worsens.

Exercise is an important part of therapy such as "Big" exercises (exaggerated, vigorous arm and leg movements), walking, bicycling, running, Tai Chi, dancing, stretching, and strength training. Proper nutrition helps to maintain weight, support bone health, and help PD meds work better. They should eat a balanced, healthy diet; eat smaller, frequent meals to help with decreased appetite; eat high-fiber foods; and get plenty of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins D and K to strengthen bones. Their emotional health is as important as their physical health. Taking action today can make a big impact on how well they live with PD. They were encouraged to stay informed as new things are happening in PD and more is coming. He answered many questions and actually discussed different medicines and treatments with individual persons.

Bronnie Rose, facilitator, presented Dr. Lajara-Nanson a gift of appreciation — a bag of fresh-shelled pecans and a decorative bag of Valentine candy. Janet Lane and Don Robbins each received a decorative bag of Valentine candy and a container of moisture therapy hand treatment as a door prize.

Those present enjoyed cheese and crackers; Valentine candy, cookies, and pretzels; chocolate fudge; and assorted sodas.

The next meeting of the group will be at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 13, at the McGee Center.

All PD patients and/or their caregivers are encouraged to attend this informative, free meeting. Any questions, call 501-329-6282 or 501-246-1972.