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What is SUDPAR?

SUDPAR means sudden unexpected death in Parkinson's disease. Sudden death can occur in people without PD. Sometimes it is tied to cardiovascular events (when people do not have a cardiac problem/disease already) and sometimes it is not tied to anything that can be found in an autopsy. What make's it different in people with PD and what can you do to minimize your risk? Let's find out.

The mechanism of SUDPAR is not currently known. Researchers do suggest that cardiac abnormalities and autonomic dysfunction often plays a key role. This is very significant as there is an association between PD and increased cardiovascular abnormalities. In fact, there has been studies that show sudden cardiac death rates in PD will range from 50 -100 cases per 100,000 in the general population. Studies specific to SUDPAR show that “a non-negligible number” of people with Parkinson’s Disease die of sudden death, while other studies show SUDPAR occurs in up to 25% of people with PD. However, researchers ALWAYS urge readers to not panic. Just like the symptoms of PD are different from one person to the next, so is the connection between SUDPAR and PD.

How to reduce risk of SUDPAR

While researchers are still trying to determine the cause of SUDPAR, they are recommending people take measures to prevent any cardiac abnormalities. Here are a few points that are recommended:

  • Talk with your primary care physician about a referral to a cardiologist, if you don't have one already. Have your cardiologist run through a full cardiac screen to make sure you are healthy as you can be. This can include a blood lipid panel, EKG, stress test, and a heart monitor.

  • Learn how to take your own blood pressure and heart rate so you can track your vitals to monitor for any changes.

  • Minimize your cardiovascular risk factors by quitting smoking, limiting alcohol use, and lower your blood sugar and cholesterol.

  • Regularly engage in exercise that gets your heart rate up, not just walking.

  • Talk with your physician about ways to safely lose weight if you are overweight or obese.

  • Eat a healthy diet that is filled with nuts, seeds, vegetables, healthy fats, fruits, and meats.

  • Take care of your mental health. Stress and anxiety can really impact your heart!

  • Always have your providers check your blood pressure and heart rate (and have them tell you the readings) whenever you go for any type of medical appointment.

  • Drink water! We need half our weight in ounces to stay hydrated. If we are dehydrated, you may experience electrolyte imbalances which can impact your heart. Dehydration is also a risk factor for clinical deterioration in patients with PD,

  • Eat lots of omega-3's. This has anti-inflammatory properties that can help keep your heart healthy. You can find omega-3's in fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, and in supplements. The primary sources of these essential fatty acids are anchovies, Atlantic herring, trout, salmon, and sardines.

  • Manage your orthostatic hypotension. Approximately 50% of patients with PD have OH, so if you have symptoms of dizziness or lightheadedness with body position changes, talk with your neurologist ASAP. Quick changes in blood pressure from OH has a significant impact on your heart health. If you experience OH, talk with your neurologist to make sure you are doing everything you can to safely and effectively manage it.

SUDPAR can be very scary to think about. Hopefully it is also empowering reading about all the ways we can reduce our risk! Simply put, if we live a healthy lifestyle our body will be less at risk for disease. Talk with your providers to determine which risk factors are most important for you to address.



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