In this episode of Living Well with MS, Dr Jonathan White, Overcoming MS Medical Advisor who is living well with MS, welcomes Dr Jonny Acheson as our guest. Jonny Acheson is a physician who lives with Parkinson’s Disease. They chat about Dr Acheson’s diagnosis, the cross-over between MS and Parkinson’s and the importance of healthy lifestyle to manage symptoms for neurological conditions.  

Watch this episode on YouTube here. Keep reading for the key episode takeaways, which include great tips and advice for people living with MS and other neurological conditions.

Read the episode transcript here

Questions and Timestamps:

02:54 Could you start by just giving us an introduction about yourself, your background, your personal background and what you do for a living?

05:48 What was it that initially brought you to that first consultation?

09:41 Was your consultation done any differently because of the fact that you're a doctor?

18:09 Can you explain what Parkinson's disease is?

20:44 Most people with MS are diagnosed between around the ages of 20 and 40. It's maybe slightly later in Parkinson's disease normally, is that right?

21:37 Does everybody with Parkinson's end up taking Levodo?

25:09 I know for you, exercise has become a really important part of how you manage your Parkinson's. Can you tell us about that side of things?

29:59 How has work changed for you since your diagnosis?

33:12 Do you think that Parkinson's has changed the way you are a doctor in any way?

36:06 When and how do you disclose your diagnosis to your patients?

38:52 The cross over between MS and Parkinson’s lifestyle changes.

41:49 Environmental factors linked to chronic conditions.

45:33 The role of stress and how that affects you.

Key Takeaways

A lifechanging Diagnosis

11:07 “I was totally blindsided. I thought I had Multiple Sclerosis. I thought I had Motor Neuron Disease. I thought I had I had a brain tumor. So, for him [the doctor] to say those words [you have Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease], it was life changing news, but I think he was quite sensible. He said, "take four weeks off." I think he was wise and doing that - I needed time to get my head around it. Now you don't get your head around it in four weeks, but at least you start to educate yourself about it and some things started to make sense.”

Taking time off when possible to process and learn about a diagnosis can benefit your wellbeing

16:31 “There are the invisible symptoms that you don't see: the anxiety, the apathy, the problems sleeping. All that stuff is very difficult for people to understand because they don't see it. The four weeks off really helped me, and I think it taught me two things. One, this disease wasn't going to kill me. Well, not directly anyway. And secondly, that high intensity exercise of two and a half hours a week, may slow progression, and it'll certainly help you feel better and reduce your symptoms.”

Find an exercise that you enjoy, that is easy and accessible to keep you motivated

27:50 “I think the difficulty is that the general population has difficulty exercising and motivating themselves to exercise. I think if you're living with a long-term neurological condition, it's so important to keep the motivation. That is really quite a challenge. I think it's about finding something that you enjoy doing. It's finding something that you'll stick at, it's something that you know that is easy, and accessible.”

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Dr Jonny Acheson’s Bio:

Jonny’s background

Jonny Acheson is an Emergency Medicine Consultant in Leicester who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2016 when he was 41. Originally from Northern Ireland, he moved to England in 2004 to continue his medical training. He uses his art to educate people about Parkinson’s and he has recently taken up the post as Director of Engagement at the Parkinson’s Excellence Network.

Advocacy for Parkinson’s

He advocates about the importance of exercise in managing Parkinson’s and is presently running a campaign to ensure people in hospital with Parkinson’s get their time critical medication when they need it.

Jonny’s personal life

He is married to Heather, and they have two children Ben (17) and Anna (12). He enjoys watching Leicester City and playing golf.