In my 25+ years of practice, I have seen more than my share of medical conditions; cancers, stroke, arthritis, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, COPD, orthopedic issues, diabetes, obesity, lupus, and more. I recently started a new client with a disease that I’d never heard of. Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). PSP is a neurodegenerative brain disease, closely resembling a cross between Parkinson’s and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), where brain cells break down for unclear reasons. PSP affects cells that control walking, balance, mobility, vision, swallowing, speech, and behavior. Symptoms begin, on average, when an individual is in the early 60’s, with a few cases starting in the 40’s. The common, early symptoms of PSP is a loss of balance, with the affected person either suffering falls, or a stiffness or awkwardness in the walk that can resemble Parkinson’s. Other early symptoms are forgetfulness and changes in personality. The latter can take the form of a loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities or increased irritability. Less common symptoms are trouble with eyesight, slurring of speech, and mild shaking of the hands. The woman I am treating first noticed eyesight issues. Unfortunately, the early symptoms get worse and new symptoms develop sooner or later. After 4 to 5 years, the imbalance and stiffness make walking very difficult or impossible. Eyesight problems can advance to be as disabling as the mobility issues. Difficulty with speech and swallowing follow-a common problem is aspirating food particles into the lungs. Eventually, most PSP patients do develop some degree of mental impairment, and slowing of thought can make it difficult to carry on a conversation. My job is to keep the axial skeleton and the joints as limber as possible, and exercise has a clear psychological benefit that improves the sense of well-being of anyone with a chronic illness. If I had a quarter for n all of the patients I’ve seen over the years that have said “I wish I’d started exercising when I was younger,” I could probably retire now. Will exercise prevent PSP? I don’t know. But exercise is a big weapon in my defense arsenal to protect myself from chronic illness. I don’t want to be in the “wish I’d started exercising earlier” camp. How about you?
Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.