Parkinson’s disease is often seen as just a tremor; what is so bad about an elderly person’s shaking hands? The truth is that this disease slowly and painfully affects your ease of movement, balance, mood, sleep and even cognitive function. All of this happens as your brain gradually dies and you eventually lose yourself. It is simple at first glance, however tremendously horrific when viewed more closely.
During the last three decades, the upward trend of Parkinson’s disease growth can be clearly observed. From 2.6 million people suffering from this disease in 1990, over 8.5 million people in 2019 suffer from Parkinson’s. The future is even more concerning. By 2040, the number of diagnosed Parkinson’s cases is expected to reach 12.9 million.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s is a condition that affects the brain. It develops when cells in the Substantia nigra stop working correctly and gradually decay. These brain cells produce an important chemical called dopamine. The brain uses dopamine to send messages to help control movements; dopamine controls walking, talking, writing and even smiling. Eventually, the brain cannot make enough dopamine to control movement properly and symptoms begin to appear.
How Parkinson’s disease starts, develops, and kills
In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, the symptoms may not be easily visible to others. The symptoms typically develop gradually over time and can be subtle at first. Thus, it is essential; to be aware of Parkinson’s risk factors and signs in order to diagnose it at the earliest stages o that the treatment process is more efficient.
Main risk factors of Parkinson’s disease
The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is not yet known, but several factors have been identified that may increase the risk of developing the condition. Some of the main risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include:
Parkinson’s disease is more common in people over the age of 60. Incidence rates for Parkinson’s disease increase with age. For instance, in the UK the rate rises from only 4 cases per 100,000 in the 45-49 age group to 62 cases per 100,000 in the 65-69 age group and to 196 cases per 100,000 in the 80-84 age group.
People with a family history of Parkinson’s disease may be at a higher risk of developing the condition. Approximately 15% of people with Parkinson’s disease have a family history of the condition. In some cases, this family link may be due to genetic mutations in one of several genes, including LRRK2, PARK2, PARK7, PINK1, or the SNCA gene.
Severe head injuries have been linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
During the course of a study, the researchers found that veterans with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury had an 83% increased risk, while those with mild traumatic brain injury had a 56% increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Men have a 1.5 times greater risk of the very disease than women.
Common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
According to the National Institute of Aging, the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are:
Tremors, or trembling in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
Slowed movement, or difficulty initiating movement
Stiffness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk
Impaired balance and coordination
Loss of automatic movements, such as blinking or smiling
Changes in speech and writing, such as a monotone voice or small, cramped handwriting
Changes in mood or behaviour, such as depression or anxiety
These symptoms can vary in severity and may not all be present in an individual with Parkinson’s disease. In some cases, symptoms may be mild and may not significantly interfere with daily life. In other cases symptoms can be more severe and disabling. The progression of Parkinson’s disease can also vary from person to person.
As with almost every serious condition, Parkinson’s is accompanied by a number of complications. It is important for people with Parkinson’s disease to work closely with their healthcare providers to manage these complications and prevent them from becoming more severe or even deadly.
The most common complications of Parkinson’s disease include:
Difficulty swallowing and speaking that can lead to choking, aspiration pneumonia, and malnutrition.
Dementia that can cause memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with thinking and problem-solving.
Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Sleep problems, such as insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Constipation and other digestive problems.
Urinary problems, such as urinary incontinence and urinary tract infections.
Skin problems, such as seborrhea (an overproduction of skin oil) and fungal infections.
Five things that can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease may progress over time, but medications can help manage symptoms. However, these drugs often come with side effects like nausea, vomiting, constipation, fainting, and low blood pressure. While you cannot control risk factors like genetics and toxin exposure, living a healthy lifestyle can help lower your chances of developing Parkinson’s disease. In order to drop your risks you should:
Keeping active and regularly exercising is associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease. According to experts, exercise can decrease inflammation in the brain, as well as abnormal accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein. Parkinson’s disease is caused by alpha-synuclein misfolding and creating toxic clumps called Lewy bodies. A loss of dopaminergic nerve cells is caused by these Lewy bodies.
The study that examined 200,000 participants, revealed that people who frequently and consistently practised moderate or vigorous physical activities were 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who remained sedentary.
It is still unknown how much and how often to exercise to prevent Parkinson’s disease. This why until the disease is better researched, the best option is to stick to physical activity guidelines by professional organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC suggests a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity training.
2Eat more plants to wipe out toxins that lead to PD
A plant-based diet is rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that can help to protect against the damage to brain cells that are associated with Parkinson’s disease. Plus such type of nutrition is typically low in saturated fat, which has been linked to an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Plants reduce the effect of toxin exposure
Exposure to pollutants is one of the main causes that later on may result in the development of Parkinson’s disease. Dioxin is the chief culprit of this exposure as about 95% of it comes from eating animal products. Luckily, plants have the capacity of wiping out about 98% of a negative dioxin impact. Plant-based diets are also associated with lower levels of dioxins and other chemical pollutants in the body that are linked to neurological disorders.
Nicotine-rich vegetables reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease
Interestingly, cigarettes have been found to lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. This is because cigarettes contain nicotine which is a neuroprotective agent. The study showed that even second-hand smoke may lower the risk. We will not recommend starting smoking to fight against Parkinson’s because the overall balance of smoking is enormously negative. So you cannot excuse this habit by saying ‘I want to protect myself from Parkinson’s’. Fortunately, there are plants that contain nicotine. Tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines and bell peppers include this chemical in smaller amounts than cigarettes, and are significantly healthier than the poisoning effects of smoking cigarettes.
The study showed that eating peppers 2-4 times a week was associated with a 30% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Berries protect you from pesticides
Pesticides increase your risk for Parkinson’s because they may cause DNA mutations that affect the way some proteins fold in your brain; misfolded alpha-synuclein proteins can lead to Parkinson’s disease.
Berries can lower exposure to pesticides. Study proves that the extract of blueberries helps nerve cells resist the debilitating effects of a common pesticide.
Another study revealed that higher blueberries and strawberries intake lowered the odds of Parkinson’s disease by 40% because berries are rich in flavonoids – phytonutrients that have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects and protect your cells from damage that can lead to disease.
3Drink coffee and green tea to protect the brain
Coffee protects brain cells from toxins and reduces PD risk by 60%
Like the berry phytonutrients, caffeine is known for protecting nerve cells against damage caused by pesticides and neurotoxins.
One research shows that drinking three cups of coffee a day reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease by up to 30%. Interestingly, the benefits of coffee drinking appear to be greater among men than among women, with some studies showing a 60% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease among men who drink coffee.
Green Tea sustains dopamine level
Brain function improvement is one of the numerous benefits of green tea. Various studies have demonstrated that certain compounds in green tea protect the brain’s neural network. Its positive impact on Parkinson’s disease is also shown by its capacity to maintain dopamine levels in unhealthy brain tissue.
4Add Omega-3 to your diet to boost brain function
There is some evidence to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in foods such as fatty fish and nuts, may have beneficial effects on brain function. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the development and function of the brain, and they have been shown to play a role in brain processes such as learning, memory, and mood. Additionally, some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may have protective effects against cognitive decline and may be helpful against conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
A study proved the effectiveness of omega-3 fats in preventing Parkinson’s. To induce Parkinson’s disease, the researchers gave one group of mice omega-3 supplements for 10 months and kept another group as a control. Control group dopamine levels declined rapidly, while omega-3-supplemented group dopamine levels remained stable and Parkinson’s symptoms were not observed.
5Raise the level of vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for many aspects of health, including the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. It’s produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight or can be received from eating animal fat.
Multiple studies show a strong correlation between vitamin D3 deficiency and the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Vitamin D concentrations are linked to reduced risk and severity of Parkinson’s disease, as well as improved cognitive function and mood.
The study showed that PD risk was reduced by 65% in those with serum vitamin D concentrations greater than 50 nmol/L compared to those with concentrations less than 25 nmol/L.
Vitamin D levels of 50 nmol/L or above are considered adequate for most people. So do not forget about walking outside and catching some sunlight as well as eating Vitamin D-rich foods like salmon and other fatty fish.
How to keep Parkinson’s disease away?
Parkinson’s disease is a serious condition that can progress for decades before the symptoms become visible to be diagnosed. What is worse, modern medicine has not yet found a real cure. Luckily, you can always rely on a healthy lifestyle to help minimize the risks of developing Parkinson’s. By taking on and being resilient to these very healthy habits discussed in the article you can make your brain work more efficiently, drop Parkinson’s disease risks and generally improve your overall health.
Not enough? Here is more from our colleagues
If you want to learn more about Parkinson’s Disease, we recommend you read the book ‘How not to die’ by Michael Greger. It not only provides insight into preventing and dealing with Parkinson’s Disease specifically but also offers tips on having a healthy lifestyle that can protect you from other severe diseases and premature death. This article is inspired by this book. It is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their overall health and longevity.
Take a closer look at how diet can help prevent Parkinson’s disease by watching this video
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