Hope for those finding a voice with Parkinson's disease

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Parkinson's disease is a chronic neurological disorder that can cause debilitating tremors. it can strike at any time with symptoms often occurring first on one side of your body. but, there is hope as research continues to find that there are ways to slow the progression of the disease.

Now, Linda Ronstadt statement that she cant sing a note has identified another issue that those diagnosed may have to deal with.

"We've had many patients that have had to quit doing things in a professional manner like singing or if you play a woodwind instrument," Said Dean Sutherland, M.D., Ph.D of Southeastern Center for Parkinson Disease in Sarasota. "The neurotransmitter dopamine which helps facilitate motor activity, like stepping, moving your limbs, talking and breathing is missing in people with Parkinson's." He said. "The diaphragm controls basically how loud you speak and Parkinson's affects the diaphragm for that reason." He explained.

Research finds dopamine pathways of patient who exercise are stimulated much the same as those taking medication for Parkinson's, and there are programs that may benefit those whose voice is affected by the disease.

Larry Hoffheimer, chairman of the board and founder of the Parkinson Research Foundation in Sarasota said, "We have voice aerobics, which is really to help people who have a difficult time speaking with Parkinson's disease."

A medical speech, language pathologist teaches the free class, one of many offered through The Parkinson Research Foundation here on the Suncoast.

Hoffheimer explained, "They learn how to use their lungs as well as their vocal cords in order to get more volume out of their speech, and its had amazing success."

Another local program recommended by Dr. Sutherland, benefiting Parkinson's patients with speech problems is Lee Silverman voice training.  "It involves trying to do a number of exercises, singing, a lot of things that have to do with movement of the tongue, with a speech therapist." Said Dr. Sutherland.

Hoffheimer is an advocate of the voice aerobics program. He concluded, "There are people in here that couldn't speak at all, that are now speaking and they are so excited."

There are FREE programs to support, inform and guide people with Parkinson's disease here in our community.

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