What Are the Odds of Developing Parkinson’s Disease?

Art by Sherri Woodbridge
Copyright 2012

I have been asked this question over and over and while I am no Professor Parkinson, I did do some research this is what I came up with

Lighter colored hair.  Yes, that’s right.  A person with black hair has the best chance of escaping a diagnosis of PD than that of a person with red or blonde hair, red being the greatest chance.  I don’t think dyed hair counts.

Family history.  Hereditary factors/genetics can play a part.  If you have a close relative who has Parkinson’s disease (such as a parent/sibling) your chances increase.

Men tend to be more at risk than women for unknown reasons. However, this fact can also depend on what country you live in.

If you are over the age of sixty, the likelihood of developing PD is greater. However, there are a select few rare known cases of PD starting at the age of two.

The Amish community seems to have the highest rate of PD among any other communities. It is thought that the culprit may be all the pesticides used in their farming.  Which leads to… Exposure to toxins playing a large part in some PD cases as well as those individuals who relied on well water for drinking and cooking.  This is due to the chemicals/pesticides found in the water. It is said that Nebraska has the highest rate of PD in the United States, most likely due to the pesticides used in their farming, as well.

Trauma to the head may play a role as damage is done to the dopamine that producing neurons in the brain.  If you were one to bang your head against the wall in frustration, well… you shouldn’t have.

Manganese, a known cause of Parkinson’s if the concentrations are high enough, is found in a town in Italy.  The concentrations there are high enough and approximately 410 out of 100,000 people have been diagnosed with PD.

Ethnicity has been studied, showing Caucasians have greater odds over African Americans.

Illicit drugs use may be a factor as the drugs have a bulls-eye target for the dopamine producing neurons inside the brain.

Studies have shown that PD is much more prevalent amongst welders, significantly higher amongst physicians, dentists, teachers, lawyers, scientists, computer programmers (young onset PD diagnosis greater for this group), clerical occupations, agricultural workers, hunting and forestry occupations were also positively associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Those people involved in manufacturing and transportation were less likely to get Parkinson’s Disease.

So… what does this all mean?  Here it is:

If you are a welder, physician, dentist, teacher, lawyer, scientist, computer programmer, person involved in clerical work, agricultural worker, hunting and forestry vocation person, and…  have a family history of PD, are male, are over 60, Amish and are growing manganese plants as a hobby; if you are Caucasian, take illicit drugs, banged your head against a wall, live in Nebraska, have red hair and a family history of PD, then chances are – you MIGHT get PD.  Then again, it depends on which country you live in, too.

Another interesting tidbit?  Those involved in the manufacturing and transportation fields were less likely to get PD.  Caffeine and smoking are said to help prevent PD.

I wouldn’t quit my welding job to pilot a jet, leave the Amish community, or move from Nebraska and take up smoking.  There are reasons, yes, why people get PD, even if we haven’t really pinpointed the specific culprit yet.  However, ultimately, because of God’s sovereignty, things are going to play out as He sees fit, whether we have black hair or polka dot hair, work in the forest or teach geometry, are male or female, Amish or Mennonite, prefer chocolate over strawberry ice cream.  And, if He sees fit to give us this disease, well then, He’s got to have a pretty good reason that I may never know or understand.  So, if you fit this category – just a normal person with Parkinson’s disease – don’t give up.  We’re all in this together and it doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, what you do or if you prefer strawberry or chocoate – we will get through.  However, might I say?  Why the chocolate, of course. Always the chocolate.

Journeying with you ~ Sherri

Purses, Purses, Everywhere and Yet…

I received a question from a reader a while ago and I have been negligent in responding in a timely manner but here goes. She asked…

“My mom gets very frustrated with her purse! Has tried several but has a problem finding and gripping the items to get them out. Is there anyone out there that has found a parkinsons friendly purse?”

Any comments? Inquiring minds want to know…

Comments received thus far in response to this inquiry:

“I understand!
First, I use a purse with a crossbody strap so that I can use both hands to get things in and out of my bag.
I had my husband attach a key ring strap to my wallet to make it easier to find it and remove it from my purse.
I also avoid multiple compartments and I only put the bare necessities in my bag.
Eager to hear other ideas! – Sheri C.”

I agree! Crossbody strap is a lifesaver; key ring is very, very helpful and no unnecessary compartments. And only what is really needful. – sherri

The Stare

It’s bound to happen. You know – that dreaded moment when a stranger can’t stop looking at you because you can’t stop wiggling. If only you could sit down and put your hands under your behind, it’s likely no one would notice. But it doesn’t matter – you’ve been found out. You can respond to this moment in your life in a positive way, or you can get in his face and scream, “What’r you lookin’ at, dude?”

Well, it happened to me. The other day some friends took me to lunch. As we stood and waited to be seated, this man, about 50ish and also waiting to be summoned to a table of his own, just kept staring at me. Well, specifically my The arm. I was late in my meds and beginning to feel ‘off’ and it was more than obvious to those around me.

I didn’t say anything to him. Most people will just blurt it out. “What do you have?” Or better yet, “What’s wrong with you?”

So, I’m standing there, waiting. And I feel like someone is watching me and lo and behold, I’m right. Mr. Dude can’t stop watching my arm move around like a chicken with its head cut off. I usually have something on with pockets so that I can put my uncontrolled limb inside and no one is the wiser. Not this day – this day I had no pockets. I was on my own.

I’d like to tell you I walked over there and said, “I noticed you were staring as if perhaps I’ve been drinking. The fact is I have Parkinson’s Disease, like Michael J. Fox, except that I’m a girl and he’s not. If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them, Mr. Dude. Otherwise, I’d appreciate if you quit staring.”

I began clenching my hand as I find after a few seconds it relieves the tightening of the muscles enough that they let go and relax a bit.

That day, Miss Wimp let Mr. Dude’s rudeness get the best of her.

This is what I have to look forward to, I thought to myself.

The next day I went to the hardware store. I love the hardware store. I could spend the whole day in the hardware store. I was on the aisle where the lawn fertilizer is when I noticed a man standing nearby. He turned and looked at me. I kept looking to find what I had come for and I felt him look at me again and then noticed him walking toward me out of the corner of my eye.

“Have you hugged a Parkie today?” he asked inquisitively. I had my bright yellow PD shirt on with the shaky bear on the front and he read the caption outloud. “What’s a Parkie?,” he added.

“A person with Parkinson’s.” Straight and to the point.

“Oh, that makes more sense now.” He got his whatever it was and walked away.

Makes more sense? I mulled that over for a while wondering what he meant by that. Did he even know what Parkinson’s was? Was he aware that it was a disease? Did he think I was supporting the homeless people who hung around the park and was part of a campaign to make them feel loved, calling them ‘Parkies’ in the process?

Whatever he thought, he was like Mr. Dude and once again, I played Miss Wimp.

I mulled that over, too. The part of Miss Wimp. Why didn’t I say more? Am I embarrassed? Afraid? This is the conclusion I came to:

I don’t necessarily like talking about it. If your tremor’s out of control, it invites questions from well-meaning people who don’t understand. If your speech is below an auditory level, they don’t understand why you seem to insist on talking softly. I suppose I could give Mr. Dude and the hardware man the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they do understand and they care for someone with a disability or at least know someone who does.

I try and go easy on the dudes. I use to be a dude myself (in the sense that I thought of and reacted to people with disabilities as Mr. Dude did – stared) and I’m not really a wimp, as I will talk about my disease if someone is interested in listening. But what has happened since having PD, is that now I am not afraid to go up to the person with an obvious disability and ask them questions about how they’re doing.

A few weeks ago, I was walking into the supermarket and an older gentleman was in front of me. Then he fell. A younger guy sauntered over, followed by a little older guy. I was helping the man to stand back up and it was obvious he was embarrassed. The two younger guys left as quickly as they had come. I walked the man into the store. He was shaking like crazy on his right side. I asked him if he had Parkinson’s. He said he didn’t know as he’d never been checked for it.

Keep that incident in mind while I tell you about this weeks. I’m standing in line at the grocery store and the older woman in back of me is struggling to put her groceries on the belt. When I say struggle, that doesn’t begin to describe it. She’s hardly able to grasp the items with her fingers. I began helping her as the clerk began scanning mine. She was very appreciative and I asked her if she had Parkinson’s. She didn’t know what it was.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about those two incidences. Did they both have PD and yet, because of their ages the doctors figure there’s not a lot of options anyhow so why bring it up? I hope not. I told them both to go and get checked. If it is PD, whatever their doctors can do for them may make the last part of their lives a little bit easier. It’s times such as those that I feel this little monster (aka PD) has a purpose.

I guess I’m not so wimpy after all. But, I have my moments. Fortunately there’s a lot of dudes out there, so it balances out.