Parkinson’s disease strikes nearly 90,000 older Americans each year, 30,000 more than previously estimated, according to a study released Thursday.
Incidence rates varied across the country. States with higher rates of elderly residents have seen more diagnoses of the disease, the risk of which generally increases with age, but some states in the Northeast and Midwest “rust belt” that have a history of heavy industrial manufacture.
Rising rates of Parkinson’s disease and the cost of treatment and loss of income mean that everyone will be affected by the disease, directly or indirectly, said Dr Michael Okun, chair of neurology at the College of medicine from the University of Florida at Gainesville.
“A disease like this could bankrupt the healthcare system,” said Okun, who was not involved in the research but is a medical adviser to the Parkinson’s Foundation. “It’s something we should all pay attention to.”
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative syndrome that causes the slow loss of brain circuits involved in movement, thought and behavior. It can cause tremors, stiffness, sluggishness, and falls, in addition to anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping.
Famous people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease include actors Michael J. Fox and Alan Alda, boxer Muhammad Ali, and singers Linda Ronstadt and Neil Diamond.
How many people live with Parkinson’s disease?
The new study found that 90,000 Americans a year are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, up from 60,000 from the previous estimate. This finding is based on five previous prevalence studies, including data through 2012, so it’s likely an underestimate, Okun said.
Men are almost twice as likely as women to be diagnosed, according to research, and the incidence generally increases with age starting in your 60s.
A 2018 study by the Parkinson’s Prevalence Project estimated that 930,000 people in the United States would be living with Parkinson’s disease by 2020 and 1.2 million by 2030, largely due to an aging population.
Identifying the incidence rate can help convince lawmakers to allocate more funds for Parkinson’s disease research and companies to invest in treatments, said study co-author and chief scientific officer Jim Beck. from the Parkinson Foundation, which helped fund the new study along with the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
“We want to use this data to encourage policy makers to reconsider funding for Parkinson’s disease and its impact on society,” he said. “There is a real call to action here.”
Why are prices increasing?
The simplest answer is that Americans are getting older. This likely explains the rising rates in states like Florida, which are retirement destinations.
There’s also a strange link between smoking and Parkinson’s disease, where heavy smokers seem less likely to develop the disease, Beck said.
While smoking rates have gone down, Parkinson’s rates have gone up, he said, though it could be that smoking is a marker for something else rather than tobacco itself being protective.
Increases in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania may be driven by a variety of factors, including better awareness and environmental toxics from heavy industry.
Could environmental factors also contribute?
The research is in its infancy, but Parkinson’s disease expert Ray Dorsey has concluded that the disease increases faster than aging. So there are other factors, probably environmental ones.
Some research has implicated the pesticide paraquat, although not all studies support this link. Lawsuits are pending against the makers of paraquat by people with Parkinson’s disease — people, Dorsey said, who don’t have a family history or an identifiable genetic cause for the condition, but who have been exposed. to paraquat before developing Parkinson’s disease.
Air pollution could also increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, Dorsey said, as could the degreasing agent trichlorethylene, or TCE.
Why is this distribution of cases important?
Knowing where Parkinson’s disease is most likely to occur can help officials direct funds and care, Beck said. “Do we have neurologists dispatched to where these people are?
A high-incidence area can also be targeted for research and trial recruitment, he said.
How much does Parkinson’s disease cost in the United States?
Each family affected by Parkinson’s disease spends about $26,000 a year out of pocket to deal with the disease, Beck said, far more than is spent on heart disease and diabetes.
An earlier study by the Michael J. Fox Foundation and others found that Parkinson’s disease costs the United States $52 billion each year and will cost $80 billion per year by 2037.
The federal government now spends over $200 million a year to fight Parkinson’s disease. But Okun said an investment of $3 billion a year is what is needed to find viable treatments, better understand the disease and hopefully learn how to prevent it.
More research funding also helps attract more scientific talent to the field, Beck said. “If they see it’s going to be difficult to do research on Parkinson’s disease because there’s not a lot of money out there, they’re going to move on to something else.”
Contact Karen Weintraub at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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