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Understanding Parkinson’s disease

GLENN ELLIS | 12/5/2017, 8:48 p.m.
Recently, civil rights leader, 76–year old Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., revealed that he has Parkinson’s disease.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, left, and Muhammad Ali pose for photos as they arrive for the 20th annual "A Midsummer Night's Magic" fundraiser for the Magic Johnson Foundation in Los Angeles, July 13, 2005. Jae C. Hong

Although a primary cause for Parkinson’s disease is yet to be identified, a number of risk factors are clearly evident.

Advancing age – Although there is the occasional case of the disease being developed in young adults, it generally manifests itself in the middle to late years of life. The risk continues to increase the older one gets.

Sex– Males are more likely to get Parkinson’s than females. Possible reasons for this may be that males have greater exposure to other risk factors, such as toxin exposure or head trauma.

Family history – Having one or more close relatives with the disease increases the likelihood that you will get it, but to a minimal degree. This lends support to the idea that there is a genetic link in developing Parkinson’s.

Agricultural work – Exposure to an environmental toxin such as a pesticide or herbicide puts you at greater risk. Some of these toxins inhibit dopamine production and promote free radical damage. Those involved in farming and are therefore exposed to such toxins have a greater prevalence of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Genetic factors– Studies show that individuals with a more active gene (alpha-synuclein) have a 1.5 times greater risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Low levels of B vitamin folate – Researchers found that mice with a vitamin B deficiency developed severe Parkinson’s symptoms, while those with normal levels did not.

Head Trauma – Recent research points to a link between damage to the head, neck or upper cervical spine and Parkinson’s. Some patients remembered a specific incident. Others did not. In some cases, Parkinson’s symptoms took decades to appear.

If you develop a tremor, urgent medical care isn’t needed if you have had a tremor/shaking or trembling for some time. But you should discuss the tremor at your next doctor’s appointment.

If a tremor is affecting your daily activities or if it is a new symptom, see your doctor sooner.

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

Disclaimer: This column is for informational purposes only. If you have a medical condition or concern, please seek professional care from your doctor or other health professional. Glenn Ellis is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist and is available through http://www.glennellis.com.