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Gov. Hutchinson declares April Parkinson's Awareness Month

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Each year more than 200,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

A Little Rock musician and retired broadcaster says keeping his mind and hands active helps him through the disease.

"I try to exercise as much as possible," UAMS patient, John Lee said. "Movement really helps and exercise really helps. I play drums and musical instruments to keep my hands busy and the drums keep my legs and arms busy."

Lee first noticed the small twitch in his fingers about seven years ago. At first, his doctor thought it was his nerves and gave him medication to calm him down.

"And, he said I’m going give you some pills that will calm you down. So, for about two years I lived on that so I finally went back to that and he said, I’m going to send you to a neurologist," Lee said.

Dr. Tuhin Virmani, a Neurologist in UAMS's Movement Disorders Clinic says symptoms can include shaking, slow movement, and balance problems.

"It's still a clinical diagnosis. So patients come in we take a very detailed history of how their symptoms started and how they progressed overtime. That gives us clues as to the diagnosis," Virmani said.

While there's no cure for Parkinson's disease, Virmani stresses hope to his patients.

"Patients can live a very good and productive life decades after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and still be functional members of society. And that’s or goal: to keep them as functional as possible for as long as possible," Virmani said.

Virmani also has research in which he studies a phenomenon in Parkinson's patients called "freezing gait syndrome." He hopes that through his study, he can find a way to keep patients from losing their center of gravity and prevent falls.

Saturday, April 21, there is a Parkinson's walk at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Learn more by visiting movingdaywalk.org.

This week, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson declared April Parkinson's Awareness Month.

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