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Northwestern Medicine Helps Parkinson's Patients Fight Back

Support group turns to boxing to help caregivers, those fighting disease stay active

CHICAGO, Jan. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Sometimes a left hook is just what the doctor ordered.

Paula Weiner, for one, is looking forward to finding out. The Chicago resident was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease three years ago when she noticed a tremor in her hand that wouldn't go away. Since that day Weiner has been more active than ever, taking art classes and becoming a Tai Chi coach. Every Monday she takes a bus down Lake Shore Drive to lead her class.

"It's all about staying active," said Weiner, who is 78 years old. "I've done water aerobics and I'll try boxing. Sitting around doing nothing may be easier, but it's certainly not going to help me in the long run."

Weiner is part of a Northwestern Medicine®Parkinson's disease support group that will host a special boxing class for those with the disease and their caregivers at 1p.m. on Jan. 7. The class will be led by Rock Steady Boxing instructors who are specially trained to teach boxing drills and routines to people living with Parkinson's disease.   

Between 30 and 40 people are expected to attend the class, said Pamela Palmentera, coordinator and clinical social worker for the Northwestern Medicine Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center.

"Every day we are learning about new ways people living with Parkinson's can enhance their quality of life," Palmentera said. "It turns out boxing is one of those perfect workouts for both the mind and body. These classes have proven that anyone, at any level of Parkinson's, can actually lessen their symptoms and lead a healthier and happier life."

Parkinson's disease is a progressive degenerative disorder that affects nerve cells, or neurons, in the part of the brain that controls movement. In Parkinson's disease, a certain group of nerve cells in the brain that produce the chemical dopamine dies. The lack of dopamine causes the symptoms of Parkinson's disease—tremor, slowness of movement, muscle stiffness, and balance problems.

There are more than 1 million people in the United States diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and more than 60,000 people are diagnosed each year. Rock Steady Boxing is the first boxing gym in the country dedicated to the fight against the disease.

"Patient care is much more than just medical; it's caring for the whole person," said Tanya Simuni, MD, a neurologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center, The National Parkinson's Foundation center of excellence. Simuni is also an Arthur C. Neilsen Jr. associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Parkinson's patients may not have total control of their disease but they can control how they let the disease affect them. Activities such as boxing have great psychological and physical benefits. We are hoping to help these patients find new means of fulfillment in their lives while also addressing some of the physical components of their illness."

Northwestern's  Parkinson 's Disease and Movement Disorders Center is the only National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence in Illinois. The center provides innovative, multidisciplinary care, while also conducting research to extend knowledge and treatment of movement disorders. There is an emphasis on education and support for patients, families, caregivers, healthcare providers and the community. 

The Center hosts a free support group at 11 a.m. the first Tuesday of every month at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. These meetings include presentations, open-ended discussions and sharing. Visitors and guests are always welcome. For more information about the support group, click here or call Pamela Palmentera at (312) 503-4397.

About Northwestern Medicine®
Northwestern Medicine® is the collaboration between Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine around a strategic vision to transform the future of healthcare.  It encompasses the research, teaching and patient care activities of the academic medical center. Sharing a commitment to superior quality, academic excellence and patient safety, the organizations within Northwestern Medicine comprise more than 9,000 clinical and administrative staff, 3,100 medical and science faculty and 700 students. The entities involved in Northwestern Medicine remain separate organizations. Northwestern Medicine is a trademark of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and is used by Northwestern University.

About Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Northwestern Memorial is one of the country's premier academic medical center hospitals and is the primary teaching hospital of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Along with its Prentice Women's Hospital and Stone Institute of Psychiatry, the hospital has 1,705 affiliated physicians and 6,769 employees.  Northwestern Memorial is recognized for providing exemplary patient care and state-of-the art advancements in the areas of cardiovascular care; women's health; oncology; neurology and neurosurgery; solid organ and soft tissue transplants and orthopaedics.

Northwestern Memorial has nursing Magnet Status, the nation's highest recognition for patient care and nursing excellence. Northwestern Memorial ranks 6th in the nation in the U.S. News & World Report 2013-14 Honor Roll of America's Best Hospitals. The hospital is recognized in 14 of 16 clinical specialties rated by U.S. News and is No. 1 in Illinois and Chicago in U.S. News' 2013-14 state and metro rankings, respectively. For 14 years running, Northwestern Memorial has been rated among the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" guide by Working Mother magazine. The hospital is a recipient of the prestigious National Quality Health Care Award and has been chosen by Chicagoans as the Consumer Choice according to the National Research Corporation's annual survey for 15 consecutive years. 

SOURCE Northwestern Medicine

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