Neurologist’s book aims to help patients, families dealing with Parkinson’s disease
By April Frawley Birdwell
UF neurologist Michael Okun, M.D., has answered more than 20,000 questions from patients with Parkinson’s disease, typically not about cures or the latest treatments, but about something much simpler — how to live well with the disease. Now Okun has written a book that he hopes will help patients everywhere.
“The more I talk to Parkinson’s patients, the more I realized a couple of things,” said Okun, co-director of the UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration. “Almost nothing is available to patients about basic lifestyle things in any language but English. Even among the most educated patients, who have access to everything, there are still lots of very simple things they aren’t doing. There are lots of things you can do to improve your quality of life.”
To address this need, Okun has authored a book titled “Parkinson’s Treatment: 10 Secrets to a Happier Life.” Published this month, the book is now available on Amazon and Smashwords in more than 20 languages. The e-book retails for $3.99. His goal is to reach every patient and family dealing with the disease.
Globally, about 4 to 6 million people have Parkinson’s disease, and 50,000 to 60,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. As people continue to live longer, the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease in the population also will increase, Okun said.
“It is really important for people to recognize this is a problem,” said Okun, who also serves as medical director for the National Parkinson Foundation. “If you plan on living a long life, pushing up into the eighth or ninth decade, your chances of facing a disease like this are very high. You cannot escape it.”
But unlike having a disease such as Alzheimer’s, patients can live for decades with Parkinson’s — so understanding how to live well with the disease is crucial.
Some of the topics Okun covers in the book are how to prepare for hospital stays and when to take medications, as well as everyday issues such as sleeping and exercise. Chapters are also devoted to secondary problems such as depression and addiction-like symptoms in Parkinson’s patients.
“Really, these should not be secrets,” Okun said. “If you know these things, you can live a much better life with your disease.”
To Okun, what is perhaps most important is making the information available in languages besides English. The book was made available on both Amazon and Smashwords specifically to increase the number of possible translations. Currently, copies can be found in 20 languages, including English, Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic among others.
“There isn’t any joking with Dr. Okun about the ‘10 Secrets to a Happier Life’ in Parkinson’s disease,” said Muhammad Ali, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984, in a written statement. “This book is a critical resource for Parkinson’s disease patients and families from around the world who speak different languages but suffer from very similar and often disabling symptoms.”