Parkinson’s Disease: Risk Factors

Parkinson’s disease is chronic and progressive disorder of brain that causes tremors, rigidity and other movements related symptoms. It is caused due to damage to nerve cells in certain areas of the brain (substantia nigra) leading to decrease in a neurotransmitter (dopamine) which sends signals to various parts of the brain regarding control and coordination of body movements.

Symptoms appear when there is a decrease of about 30% in dopamine levels of brain.

About 85-90% cases of Parkinson’s disease are idiopathic, which means the cause remains unknown in majority of the cases.

What are the risk factors for developing Parkinson’s disease?

  • Older age: risk of developing Parkinson’s disease increases with increasing age. Though early onset is also seen sometimes, it generally appears mostly after 50 years of age.
  • Gender: males have slightly more risk of developing the disease than their female counterparts.
  • Genetics: there are some evidences of slightly increased risk if you have a family history (close relatives) of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Toxins: exposure to some environmental toxins like heavy metals (like mangnese), carbon monoxide, pesticides, etc puts you at increased risk.
  • Drugs:  some drugs like typical antipsychotics, dopamine antagonists (metaclopramide) increases the risk for Parkinson’s disease. Drugs are the most common cause of secondary Parkinson’s.
  • Head Injury: previous head trauma with loss of consciousness is also associated with slight increase of Parkinson’s risk.

What are the factors that may reduce the risk?

  • Drinking coffee: Those who drink coffee have been found to be at reduced risk and some researches have pointed towards a possible link between caffeine and lower incidence of Parkinson’s.
  • Green tea
  • Aerobic exercises

  Dr. Deepak Kripal
  Physician