Black History of Health: Muhammad Ali

via – In the few years before his 2016 death, the sound and fury he’d become famous for had been replaced by silence and tranquility. Muhammad Ali no longer rumbled or gloated.

The heavyweight champion of the world and civil rights activist had been slowed, no longer capable of performing the fast footwork that made him the world’s athlete. Parkison’s disease robbed him of most of his faculties. But how?

What is Parkinson’s disease?

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, neurological disorder that occurs when the cells in the brain that make dopamine start to die. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, the face may show little or no expression. Your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.

Although Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, medications might significantly improve your symptoms. Occasionally, physicians may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of the brain and improve symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. Early signs may be mild and go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Tremors. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. You may rub your thumb and forefinger back and forth, known as a pill-rolling tremor. Your hand may tremble when it’s at rest.

Delayed motor function. Over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk. It may be difficult to get out of a chair. You may drag your feet as you try to walk.

Imbalanced equilibrium. Your posture may become stooped, or you may have balance problems as a result of Parkinson’s disease.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

Certain brain neurons gradually break down or die in Parkinson’s patients. Many of the symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal brain activity, leading to impaired movement and other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

What are the risk factors of Parkinson’s Disease?

Genes, environmental triggers, and the existence of Lewy bodies have all been linked to Parkinson’s. Lewy bodies are clumps of specific substances within brain cells that are microscopic markers of Parkinson’s disease. These are called Lewy bodies, and researchers believe these Lewy bodies hold an important clue to the cause of Parkinson’s disease.

What can be done to prevent Parkinson’s?

Since much is still unknown, proven ways to prevent the disease also remain a mystery.

Some research has shown that regular physical exercise might reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Some other research has shown that people who consume caffeine — which is found in coffee, tea, and cola — get Parkinson’s disease less often than those who don’t drink it. Green tea is also related to a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. However, it is still not known whether caffeine actually protects against getting Parkinson’s, or is related in some other way. Currently, there is not enough evidence to suggest drinking caffeinated beverages to protect against Parkinson’s.

BDO’s Black History of Health series is designed to show the correlation between the health of historical Black figures and Black Americans today. Many of the health disparities we currently experience have been in our community for centuries. This series is meant to bring these conditions to the forefront and provide blacks with preventative and management steps to reduce these disparities and improve the overall health of the Black American community. It’s time to change the narrative.

The Parkinson’s Foundation has more on living well with Parkinson’s Disease.

Jasmine Browley holds an MA in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, and has contributed to Ebony, Jet and MADE Magazine among others. So, clearly, she knows some stuff. Follow her digital journey @JasmineBrowley.

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