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Plenty of Potential for Preventing Parkinson's
#1
As the second most common degenerative disease of the mind, Parkinson's Disease (PD) is something that most of us have seen in an elderly relative or friend. The disease often brings to mind thoughts of shaky, slow moving elderly folks who look very frail. The condition is relatively common and considerable ongoing research is working toward understanding the degenerative disease. In the meantime, however, prevention is increasingly possible based on an understanding of the risks associated with the condition.

Though often described as a single disease, Parkinson's disease is actually the name of a group of related conditions with similar symptoms. People with the condition typically suffer from physical symptoms such as muscle rigidity, tremors and slowed movements. Mental issues include depression, changes in behavior and memory problems.

Roughly 80% of people with Parkinson's are over the age of 60. Of the 20% remaining, 5 to 10% of those who develop the disease do so under age 40 with another 5 to 10% developing the disease between 40 and 50. By the age of 80, roughly 1 in 20 people are affected by Parkinson's. Overall, men have a 50% higher risk of developing the disease than women.

In the last two decades, medical science has determined that Parkinson's is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Several genetic mutations associated with the disease have been identified. As well accumulations of particles in the brain have been observed as a part of the disease.

In one case, the accumulation of iron particles causes excess free radicals that kill brain cells. In another case, it is the [[link=/health_blog/hoarding_junk_is_hard_on_the_nerves_in_neurodegenerative_diseases]]presence of a specific protein in the brain[[/link]] that kills brain cells. Ultimately, however, it is destruction of specific cells related to the brain communication chemical dopamine that causes the development of Parkinson's disease.

While there is certainly nothing that yet stops the death of these brain cells in its tracks, research efforts have yielded some exciting options for prevention of the disease. At this point, there are a number of known approaches that allow an individual to significantly reduce their risk.

Environmental Exposure

Focusing first on environmental exposure, one of the environmental factors associated with developing Parkinson's is exposure to insecticides. This has been known for some time. Recently, however, scientists from the Université Paris Descartes determined that in men who have two known genetic variations and have had exposure to specific insecticides, the risk of developing the disease was 3.5 times higher than in those without the genetic difference. The types of insectides in question are those chemically described as "organochlorines", an example of which is the well known DDT.

Among farm workers in France, researchers from the National French Institute for Health Research found that exposure to insecticides doubled the risks of developing the disease in later life. Similar results were also reported by the the Parkinson's Institute in California. Obviously, if a person's occupation increases risk of exposure, it is a good idea to take every precaution to limit that exposure. As well, working on an organic farm might be an even better idea.

Yet another environmental factor that increases the risks of developing Parkinson's disease is exposure to manganese. It has been known for some time that welders and miners who inhaled manganese dust developed a similar condition to PD because of manganese poisoning. However, researchers only recently determined that a genetic mutation combined with exposure to levels of manganese caused PD-like effects in yeast cells. If the same effects occur in humans, people working in the mining, welding and steel manufacturing industries would be at increased risk and would need to take additional precautions.

Lifestyle Factors

Moving from unknown external factors to lifestyle factors, it also seems that 'higher levels of motherhood' can contribute to Parkinson's. Research from Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University found that women who have 3 or fewer pregnancies are at 17% less risk of developing Parkinson's than those who have 4 or more. The exact reason as to this difference is not yet understood. This suggests that there may be some truth to the idea that children can affect the sanity of their parents!

Medication

Following lifestyle, another important means of avoiding the disease relates to the preventative use of medication. While many people take an aspirin a day based on doctor's advice to reduce the risks of heart disease and stroke, it is not the only common medication that offers preventative benefits.

For Parkinson's, Ibuprofen is also very important. Research from Harvard School of Public Health found that those who used the drug regularly had a 40% lower risk of developing Parkinson's than those who did not take the drug. The benefits were greater in those who were also taking higher doses. Of course, before you go out and start self-medicating, it always important to talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks.

Diet

Finally, in terms of prevention options for Parkinson's we come to diet. Researchers from Johns Hopkins found that the Indian spice curcumin was exceptional at preventing the death of brain cells, reducing cell death by 60%. They suspect that this is because it is a good antioxidant and also good at reducing inflammation, both problems associated with Parkinson's. It is hard to argue against against a good curry dish in any case...

Another aspect of diet that is [[link=/health_blog/vitamin_ds_potential_preventative_power_against_7_medical_conditions]]importance for prevention is Vitamin D[[/link]]. Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have found that vitamin D deficiency is more than 50% higher amongst those who develop Parkinson's disease than within the general population. Though no studies have yet determined whether low Vitamin D levels lead to Parkinson's or instead that Parkinson's leads to low Vitamin D levels, ensuring healthy Vitamin D levels is important for good health.

One last aspect of diet that affects Parkinson's risk is associated with [[link=/health_blog/cancer_vs_the_sacred_coffee_bean]]coffee, the most common antioxidant of the modern diet[[/link]]. In a study from the University of Porto, research scientists found that regular coffee consumption could reduce the risks of developing the disease by 24% in men and 14% in women for every 2 to 3 cups of coffee. Clearly for those who enjoy coffee, these findings are good news. For those that do not, it was the caffeine that was responsible for the preventative benefits so a good tea could also do the trick.

Parkinson's Disease is a condition that can significantly reduce the quality of life in our later years. Though new and [[link=/health_blog/the_plethora_of_pharmaceutical_possibilities_for_parkinson_patients]]existing medications offer hope for the treatment of Parkinson's[[/link]], prevention is ultimately our best defensive weapon. Taking advantage of the knowledge gained from medical research offers the possibility that we may never be one of those who developed the disease.

Do you know have or know someone with Parkinson's? Share your experiences in the forums.

[]Related Links[]

http://app1.unmc.edu/publicaffairs/newsa...le_id=2050
http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/75/4/637.abstract
http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2009/nov/kanthasamy
http://www.agehealthy.org/pdf/GBPSRSEHN_...ng1017.pdf
http://esciencenews.com/articles/2010/06...ns.disease
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2...060409.php
http://www.thepi.org/index.php?src=gendocs[[amp]]ref=Study%20Summary[[amp]]category=Clinical%20Research
http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Rele...anese.html
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/200...161038.htm
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/...31302.html
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/daily-a...py/HB00073
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/Press_rel...14_08.html
http://shared.web.emory.edu/emory/news/r...nsons.html
http://iospress.metapress.com/content/r817357v22l37j8w/

#2
Watching someone live with Parkinson's is a hard thing to do. I used to work in a nursing home where we had several patients who were diagnosed with Parkinson's. It started out with minimal symtoms, and for some, there was a rapid increase of symtoms and it became nearly impossible for them to do even the simplest of tasks due to the tremors they were having and/or the memory loss.
For those caring for someone with Parkinson's Disease, it is important to have a lot of patience.
#3
It is a tough disease on both patients and their families. That is what makes it all the more important to understand what potential treatments might be tried.
#4
Well, I don't know if we should say yet that Parkinson's can be prevented. I know who did not have extreme exposure to pesticides, was a coffee drinker, was male (so no issues about pregnancy), but still got Parkinson's at age 42.

In my novice opinion, I think a lot more research as to the true cause(s) needs to be performed. In order to prevent a disease, it seems like we would have to come up with a vaccine so it could never occur even under less then ideal living circumstances.
#5
My Sister-in-law has Parkinson's disease so I know how debilitating this disease can be. When I first met her this was strong, vital woman. Someone who actually saw my brother through a life and death situation. Yet in the past few years, I have seen her go down hill to the point where she has to rely on a wheel chair to get around, and my brother, her husband has become her full time care attendant. It's hard to watch at times, and I know that she has been given different medications to see if something will work better. She has also gone through physical therapy to try to get back some of her mobility.
#6
My late father had Parkinson's and it was heartbreaking to watch him suffer from it. He was a strong-willed man however, and tried to function as best he could, but it was still very hard for him.
#7
Pafjlh, I have been very impressed with the healing strength of Omega-3 fish oil capsules. There is information about two men, one young, one older who were virtually brain dead and are now relatively well, from being given a lot of Omega-3, when they were virtual flat lined and just about dead. I would suggest the Omega-3 and hopefully she might experience the same good fortune with the Parkinson's sympthoms. The Omega-3 builds the brain cells, as it is part of the building blocks in our systems, being used when fetuses are developing. Good luck.
#8
There are reports that if one rides a Tandem bicycle, the effects of the disease can be reduced. How is not expained, the riding just helps with the healing in some way.
#9
I didn't know about the Vitamin D link! I have some vitamin D in my cabinet. I better start taking it. I haven't been going out in the sun for the past 5 years so I am pretty sure I am in need of it.
#10
My grandfather passed away a couple of years ago. He suffered from Parkinson's Disease. They did not know how to treat it, and they thought electroshock therapy was the key. I am glad they outlawed it because it made him so much worse than he had to be. I hope that new developments in technology continue to save some people from suffering from Parkinsons.




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