Parkinson’s Disease: 4 Risk Factors to Know
Nearly 90,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year in the United States. Recent findings have revealed that this figure is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030. Worldwide, more than 10 million people are living with this neurodegenerative disorder. No surprise, it’s touted as the second-most common brain disorder after Alzheimer’s disease.
Your loved one has Parkinson’s disease if they experience tremors in the hands, jaw, legs, arms, or head. The slowness of movement and muscle stiffness are other symptoms of this neurodegenerative disorder.
Even though Parkinson’s is common, healthcare experts aren’t aware of what leads to this disease. Simultaneously, predicting who is more at risk of developing this disease is impossible, as most cases appear out of the blue.
However, certain factors may increase your likelihood of developing this brain disorder. Let’s discuss a few of them in this guide:
#1. Family History and Genetics
Parkinson’s Foundation has revealed that around 10% to 15% of Parkinson’s disease is caused due to genetics. However, the research is still in its infancy, so experts have yet to understand the role of genes in Parkinson’s disease fully.
Early research discovered that mutations in the SNCAgene (PARK 1), which produces the protein alpha-synuclein, are associated with Parkinson’s disease. Precisely, they found that alpha-synuclein accumulates in clumps called Lewy Bodies in Parkinson’s patient’s brain cells.
Only recently, GBA1 mutation has been identified as the most common genetic abnormality associated with Parkinson’s disease.
The LRRK2 gene is another mutation that has been linked to Parkinson’s. Quite surprisingly, at least 20 LRRK2 mutations are found in more than 2% of people with PD. Does that mean if someone’s parents or siblings have Parkinson’s, they are going to develop the disease? No. But it does play a significant role in the development of the disease.
#2. Head Trauma
You’re at a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease if you sustain a blow to the head than those who don’t. Epidemiologists suggest that veterans with mild traumatic brain injury have a 56% greater risk of getting Parkinson’s disease within 12 years of damage.
This eye-opening evidence has raised concerns among athletes, as head injury, known as concussion, is common in football and other activities.
#3. Exposure to Chemicals
Do you know that exposure to certain chemicals or toxins can increase your likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease? A handful of scientists believe that exposure to certain toxins can alter brain cells, which may increase the risk of Parkinson’s.
Recently, a pool of researchers found a link between the contaminated water of Camp Lejeune and Parkinson’s disease. According to the report published on CNN, military veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune are 70% more likely to develop Parkinson’s than veterans from other posts nationwide.
According to TorHoerman Law, leaks and spills from waste disposal sites, underground storage tanks, and businesses released toxins in the drinking water of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Among them were volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethylene (TCE), dry cleaning solvents, and degreasers, along with 70 other hazardous chemicals.
The symptoms of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination exposure matched those of Parkinson’s disease. Some of those included slow bodily movement, tremors, rigid muscles, impaired balance, and difficulty speaking or writing. If you notice any of these in your veteran family member, reach out to a medical professional at the earliest.
Age isn’t directly associated with Parkinson’s, but this disease is more prevalent among older people. Individuals who are 60 years or above are at the greatest risk of developing this neurological disorder. Why? It’s believed that the brain cells of older adults, like the human body, are more prone to injury.
Gene expression– the way a person’s gene functions– is another reason behind Parkinson’s in older adults. Over time, it morphs and causes changes in cellular activity that eventually leads to Parkinson’s disease.
Preventing Parkinson’s disease is impossible because its exact causes are unknown to man. However, some lifelong habits can reduce your risk of developing the condition. They are as follows:
1. Wear protective clothing when using or being exposed to chemicals such as solvents, pesticides, and herbicides.
2. wear a helmet or protective headgear during sports or cycling to protect yourself from traumatic brain injury.
3. Exercise regularly because physical activity helps maintain dopamine levels in the brain.
4. Increase your intake of foods that contain flavonoids, like apples and berries.
What Else You Need to Know?
Contrary to popular belief, Parkinson’s isn’t fatal, though the diagnosis can be devastating. While there’s no cure for this disorder, treatments are available to relieve the symptoms and improve the quality of life of the patients. With quality care from the medical team and loved ones, leading a normal life for Parkinson’s patients won’t be challenging.
Remember, the severity of the condition plays a significant role in determining the time it takes for a patient to recover. When it comes to Parkinson’s, a healthcare provider is the best person to guide you forward.