Every six minutes, a person in the United States will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the nervous system and the parts of the body controlled by the nerves. In fact, approximately one million Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease.  

April is observed as Parkinson's Awareness Month, in honor of the birth month of James Parkinson, the London physician who first identified the disease in 1817.    

However, more than 200 years later, many Parkinson's patients struggle to receive an early diagnosis, which is key in preventing disease progression. 

"When the patient presents without a tremor, or if it is a younger patient, then the diagnosis can be easily missed," says neurologist and New York Institute of Technology Parkinson's Center Director Adena Leder, D.O. "Young-onset women with Parkinson’s disease generally report that they are seen by approximately five doctors before a diagnosis is made. It is crucial to make the diagnosis early in order for the patient to start treatment."

Once diagnosed, Parkinson's symptoms can be managed with medication, but Leder emphasizes that exercise is actually the "most important part of treating Parkinson's."

"Medication does not slow the disease, it only helps to alleviate the symptoms. Exercise is the only modality to slow the progression of the disease," says Leder, who is a movement disorders specialist. "The earlier the patient is aware of their diagnosis, the sooner they can start to exercise."