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Column: Woman devotes time to helping others with Parkinson’s

Marty Acevedo of Oceanside is San Diego County’s complement to actor Michael J. Fox, the nationally known face of Parkinson’s disease.

Acevedo is president of the board of the Parkinson’s Association of San Diego; an ambassador for the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s, an ambassador for Aware in Care, Parkinson’s Foundation; co-founder of Coach Me Strong and an advocate for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

She recently spoke to a Carlsbad service club and will take her message to any organization that’s interested.

Like Fox, she, too, has Parkinson’s disease.

She said the man for whom the condition is named, Dr. James Parkinson, an English surgeon who first described it in 1817, did not himself have it.

He called it a “shaky palsy.”

Acevedo explained in a phone interview that it’s a progressive neurological disorder where neurons misfire in the brain and that tremors are one of its most recognizable symptoms, but she said “not everyone has tremors.”

Other symptoms can range from bladder issues to memory loss.

Acevedo said there are 1.2 million known victims nationwide and 10,000 in San Diego County.

She’s a medical professional herself. A graduate of the University of Tennessee in her native state, Acevedo also has a Master of Science degree from University of Bridgeport and is a registered dietitian nutritionist.

She came here with her Marine husband in 1983 and worked as a nutritionist at Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside for 34 years. She was a member of its critical-care team until her medical retirement in 2015.

Acevedo officially was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010, although she figures the first telltale signs began as early as 2004 with a tremor in her left hand and poor balance. “Something definitely was not right,” she said.

Now she devotes her time to helping others with Parkinson’s.

There’s no known cause and no known cure, but, Acevedo said, Fox is spending literally billions of dollars on research to try to find them.

Hereditary or environmental? Possibly some of both, Acevedo said.

One thing that does seem apparent, she said, is an environmental connection that has shown up in the military: more Parkinson’s with those exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide during the conflict in Vietnam or with so-called “burn pits” more recently in the Middle East. And, she said, pesticides used in farming can be a factor.

Onset, she said, can come in a person’s 50s or 60s. “It is subtle, slow,” she said.

“You cannot cure, but you can manage,” she said.

Acevedo started with surgery, a deep brain stimulation, in 2016, which has helped, she said, and she advised exercise and diet — as with anything else, Acevedo said, a “Mediterranean” diet with less red meat can be helpful. And, she advised, “moderation in all things.”

She also prescribes “movement and fellowship.”

Her recipe for successful management of the disease also includes a “positive attitude” of “live for the moment; don’t worry about tomorrow.”

And she says there are all kinds of services and support available on the website, parkinsonsassociation.org.

Acevedo has made two trips to Washington, D.C., to “raise awareness” and push for legislation, like for reduced prices for prescription meds, that will help Parkinson’s patients.

She has spoken across the country on behalf of Parkinson’s patients.

But she and her husband follow her own advice about movement, and they travel for fun as well.

“I live a life,” Acevedo said.

Summit on dangers

of underage drinking

MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and Scripps Health are sponsoring their first Youth Summit on the dangers of underage drinking Sept. 10 at Torrey Pines High School, 3710 Del Mar Heights Road.

Included will be such subjects as tips for teens and tools for parents, as well as information for retailers of alcohol and on driver safety.

The program is slated from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with registration at 9:30 a.m.

Students will receive credit for volunteer and community hours, and lunch will be provided to those who preregister with [email protected]

Sherman is a freelance columnist. Contact her at [email protected]