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

Apathy in Parkinson’s Disease

Just what does apathy mean? Some say that the opposite of hate isn’t love, but apathy – an attitude of not caring. Miriam Webster defines it as showing little or no feeling or emotion. Spiritless. There’s little or no interest or concern. You feel:

  •  indifferent
  •  complacen
  •  disinterested
  • unconcerned

You are

  •  lukewarm
  • aloof
  • cold
  • numb
  • unemootional
  • detached
  • unfeeling
  • insensitive
  • unattentive

Ever feel that way? I highlighted the word spiritless above, because I think that sums up the whole mess.

Apathy can be pretty pathetic and discouraging when you come across it in someone. Most people who are apathetic cause you to feel frustrated by their seemingly sense of detachment and unfeeling attitude toward life. However, in a person with Parkinson’s disease, often beknownest to them what is truly happening, they don’t want to feel this way. They don’t want to feel numb, lifeless, or spiritless.

Some tend to believe that apathy and depression are one of the same. According to the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, “Apathy is defined as diminished motivation not attributable to a decreased level of consciousness, cognitive impairment, or emotional distress. Depression involves considerable emotional distress, evidenced by tearfulness, sadness, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, anorexia, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, and recurrent thoughts of death.” In a study conducted several years ago, doctors concluded that in Parkinson’s disease, apathy is present, but depression is more consistent with the disease. So do we ignore the sometimes and shoot for the consistent? No. It all needs to be addressed. So where do you start?

I have struggled with both aspects of these two specific non-motor symptoms. Apathy has robbed me of time. Opportunities. So has depression. Whereas apathy has left me feeling unemotional and numb, depression has left me in darkness, despair and desperation. When they have coincided with one another, it has felt like a ticking time bomb in my head and spirit. It is a scarey place to be and it is real.

  • For me, part of the apathetic feeling I had came from feeling like I didn’t know what to do next. Feeling stuck in those ‘off’ moments. Keeping a list of things I want to accomplish or need to accomplish, no matter how simple or mundane it may seem, helps to bring things back into focus. Here are some practical suggestions for those moments when you feel bound in the land of apathy (and they help for depression mode, too):Get up, take a shower, get dressed. Don’t think about how you ‘feel’. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted just be like a Nike commercial and Just Do It. Get going. And laying out your clothes the night before may sound childish, but who cares if it makes your life easier.
  • Get some exercise. Stretch. Walk. Go for a swim. If you can’t motivate yourself, ask someone to help you/keep you accountable. To pull you out of the house if they must, and drag you along until you’re going along because you now see just how much better you can feel.
  • Take your medications on time. This involves sorting them beforehand and having them ready to pop in your mouth. When you’re feeling apathetic or depressed, it is easy to just forget it becasuse unscrewing five child-proof prescription bottle caps four times a day isn’t something you’re going to feel like doing. You’ll pay for that apathetic thinking within the hour.
  • When you have things you really shouldn’t put off, do the things you hate first. That will make accomplishing your goals easier.
  • Talk to a friend. Have someone pray with you and/or for you. Having another person to share life’s struggles makes the struggle bearable.
  • Talk to your doctor. There are treatments for apathy and depression for people with Parkinson’s disease who find themselves fighting to stay sane. This disease already takes enough from us. Don’t let it take your joy and happiness, too.