“Your spark can become a flame and change everything!”- E.D. Nixon
As we commemorate one more year of Dr. Parkinson’s Birthday, we are reminded of the great accomplishments in the area of PD and neuroscience since he was a prominent physician in London. Yet, human kind has been battling a form of ‘Parkinson’s’, if not the same illness, for centuries before Dr. Charcot put a name to it in honor of James, dating back to the times of ancient India. From history we know that this disease does not discriminate against race, ethnicity, or social economic status. Currently, it is believed that there are approximately 10 million people world-wide suffering from this disease.
We have learned, however, that although mostly sporadic in nature there are some genetic predispositions to developing Parkinson’s disease which vary from one family to another and from one ethnic group to another. Despite the genetic predisposition it seems that environment and outer influences such as exposure to toxins can hasten the development of this illness in an otherwise normal individual.
Here are the most common Risk factors:
- Advancing age
- Male gender
- Decrease estrogen /early hysterectomy with ovary removal
- Environmental toxins
- Low Folate levels
- Agricultural workers
- Well water consumption
- History of essential tremors increases -depending on who you quote there is a 10-30% increase
- History of melanoma
- History of chronic constipation
- History of mood disorders
- History of sleep disorders such as RLS/REM behavior
- Repeated head trauma or severe head injury
- Family history of PD
- Ethnicity- Hispanics twice as likely to develop
- Occupation- those in medical field are also at greater risk presumably due to exposure of toxins and stress since the basal ganglia is overly sensitive to stress-may trigger faster aging process in the basal ganglia
Change is an inevitable part of life, without change there cannot be growth. The truth is that we are now in the middle of the PD pendulum swinging back. Since the name of Parkinson’s was ascribed to a disease that affects our motor system, causing slowness of movement, along with gait difficulty, rigidity of muscles and rest tremors that dissipate in sleep and when engaged in purposeful movement, was thought that PD was a disease of middle to late age white men. No longer is it just a “movement” disease but an entire body system illness affecting our thinking, our personalities, and almost every system from head to toe excluding the lungs. Now it also appears that PD is encompassing a much younger population many of whom appear to be women. So, no longer are the young and ‘fairer’ sex protected but rather caught up in the midst of the storm.
Therefore, it is up to all of us to do what ever we can big or small in fight against PD. We can volunteer for research studies, write our congressmen http://www.parkinsonsaction.org about needing more doctors and funding to provide for day to day issues encountered by those of us who live with PD in our lives either as patients or caregivers. we can offer our services to help those with PD, we can donate our monies to PD foundations such as http://www.pdf.org , you can purchase a ‘Parky Raccoon’ to help send someone to WPC next year or simply to raise awareness for a still obscure disease in many circles.