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Around 500,000 people in the United States have Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder that affects movement, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Symptoms of Parkinson's disease result from the destruction of neurons in the areas of the brain called the substantia nigra which produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Without these neurons, the amount of dopamine in the brain decreases, affecting neural communication between the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum, resulting in impaired movement.
Parkinson's disease has four major symptoms: postural instability, rigidity, bradykinesia and tremor. With postural instability, patients fall easily and may also have a stooped posture. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke noted that most Parkinson's disease patients have rigidity, in which the muscles are contracted and tense. Movement of a patient's arm results in short and jerky motions. Bradykinesia is the slowing or loss of patients' automatic and spontaneous movements, which affects how quickly they can do daily activities, such as dressing themselves. With the tremors, they have a rhythmic motion at 4 to 6 beats per second, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. They can start in the hand, jaw or foot, and are noticeable when the affected area is resting or if a patient is stressed.
Helping patients manage these symptoms is a goal of Parkinson's disease treatment. New studies suggested that low-intensity exercise and a drug called safinamide may help Parkinson's disease patients with movement difficulties. The exercise study was conducted by the University of Maryland and included 67 Parkinson's disease patients who were divided into three groups: high-intensity treadmill, low-intensity treadmill, and stretching and resistance training. The high-intensity group exercised at a greater speed and shorter duration and the low-intensity group exercised at a lower speed and longer duration.