April is World Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurological disease after Alzheimer’s. There are 50 new cases in Australia every day and about 150,000 people are living with it here, according to Parkinson’s Australia. On the Central Coast, around 660 people have PD.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD)  is a neurodegenerative disorder that mostly affects the dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain. Dopamine is a powerful brain chemical that assists in coordinating movement, as well as motivation and reward. 

Parkinson’s is not contagious. You cannot catch Parkinson’s from another person.

What are the outcomes of Parkinson’s?

Although Parkinson’s disease is not directly fatal, complications associated with the condition can impact overall health and quality of life.

Parkinson’s disease itself is not typically fatal.

PD is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management and care. With proper treatment, support, and lifestyle modifications, many with Parkinson’s can maintain a good quality of life for many years after diagnosis. 

What causes Parkinson’s?

It is still unknown what causes PD, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as toxin exposures. There is no clear environmental trigger, nor is there a clear genetic association. 

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of PD can vary. They are not always visible. 

  • tremor or shaking
  • muscle stiffness, which can cause pain and affect posture and movement
  • slowing of movement, which can make daily activities difficult
  • a fixed facial expression
  • changes to your posture

Other symptoms that you may develop with Parkinson’s disease affect how you move, such as:

  • balance problems
  • slowed speech
  • very small handwriting that’s difficult to read
  • swallowing changes
  • low blood pressure, especially when going from sitting to standing

There are also non-movement symptoms, such as:

  • sleep problems, including acting out dreams and sleep-talking
  • constipation
  • thinking problems
  • anxiety and depression
  • loss of sense of smell
  • fatigue 

Many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease could be caused by other conditions. If you are worried about your symptoms, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor at Narara Valley Medical.

Who gets Parkinson’s?

PD mostly affects people over 60 years of age. The average age of diagnosis is 65.

However, there are about one in five cases of Young Onset PD in people under 50. 

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will take a full medical history and look at things like tremors, stiffness, and gait.

You may also need a CT scan, and additional tests to rule out other things. It may take a while to diagnose Parkinson’s.

What are the treatments?

Treatment will come from a neurologist or Parkinson’s specialist

You may be referred to a Movement Disorder Specialist who can assess you, and help alleviate any problems you have in daily life.

There are also many drugs available to help treat PD. 

In some cases, it may be possible that surgery could help.

Treatment is highly personalised and will follow several tests to discover what is best for you.

What can I do?

The best thing you can do is stay healthy and active. Eating well, and exercise is the key, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

We also advise that you stay connected. and keep using your brain with activities like crosswords, reading, playing a musical instrument, learning another language, or sudoku puzzles. Like physical muscles, brain muscles are a case of use it or lose it.

The evidence says if you keep using your brain and muscles, they will help you over the long run 

“The neuroplasticity created from exercise in patients with Parkinson’s disease may actually outweigh the effects of neurodegeneration,” says Padilla-Davidson on the Johns Hopkins website.

David’s story

Well respected for his steady hands and skill as a motor mechanic, David from Toukley now faces the daily challenges of living with Parkinson’s disease.

As the symptoms began to manifest, David found himself grappling with a sense of loss and uncertainty. The tremors in his hands made simple tasks like holding a wrench or tying his shoelaces daunting.

A year ago, David’s once-confident stride had been replaced by a hesitant shuffle. The stiffness in his muscles left him feeling trapped in his own body.

Despite the physical toll of the disease, David has remained determined to maintain his independence and dignity. With the support of his wife, and their two adult children, David has sought out medical treatment and embraced various therapies to manage his symptoms. 

“I’m keeping up to date with advances in the research,” David says. “Many of the advances are very reassuring. It’s been a wakeup call, but I’ve listened. I’ve got years more to live so I’m giving it a red hot go.”

David began seeking the advice of experts in his condition, Parkinson’s Australia. He received advice about food, sleep, exercise, and alcohol intake, which made a huge difference. David feels not only more optimistic but healthier than ever.

“I’m stronger and fitter now than I was ten years ago.”

Despite tremors and stiffness, his passion for engines has remained undiminished. There are new treatments on the horizon that David’s considering. For now, he is focusing on improving his strength and general health. He is following Parkinson’s Australia’s top ten tips and now considers his gut-microbiome to be his own finely-tuned sports car.

What kind of car is it?

“A Bugatti Chiron,” Davids grins.

By drinking enough water, making time to relax, sleeping well, and eating healthier food, he is giving his body precision maintenance for optimal performance.

What famous people have Parkinson’s disease?

Many people know Michael J. Fox (who played Alex in the long-running TV sitcom Family Ties) was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. Fox has gone on to provide funding for much research and set up the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Other people with Parkinson’s include musicians Linda Rondstadt and Neil Diamond, comedian Billy Connolly, champion boxer Muhammad Ali, and Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne.

World Parkinson’s Day

Thursday, April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day. To mark the occasion and connect with interested locals, Parkinson’s NSW will hold an information booth in the foyer of Gosford Hospital. 

Where can I get support on the Central Coast?

Parkinson’s Australia is the peak body for people with PD, their families, and carers. They provide national advocacy on issues that matter and work to improve the lives of people affected by PD throughout Australia.

Parkinson’s NSW is the state-based branch, which offers non-judgemental support and evidence-based information for people living with Parkinson’s, their carers, and family members.

Parkinson’s NSW has a Central Coast support group based in Narara. 

If you have any questions please call the Infoline on 1800 644 189.

Useful Links

Health Direct on Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s NSW Facebook Group


The information on this page is intended to be general only. It shouldn’t be used to treat, diagnose, or advise on Parkinson’s disease or any other health condition. Always speak to your doctor for personal medical advice.