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How to Avoid Parkinson’s Disease

August 16, 2003 | 68,464 views
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By Dr. Joseph Mercola
     with Rachael Droege

Parkinson''s disease (PD) is a neurological disorder in which neurons in a region of the brain that controls movement deteriorate. The deterioration of the neurons results in a shortage of dopamine, a brain-signaling chemical, which causes problems with movement.

It''s bad enough that we are using medications to control Parkinson''s, now those who use them need to be concerned about gambling their life savings away in a real although rare side effect reported in the current issue of Neurology.

PD affects close to 1 million Americans. Symptoms, which typically progress over time, include tremor (trembling or shaking), slow movement, rigid limbs, stooped posture, an inability to move, reduced facial expressions and a shuffling gait. The condition can also cause depression, dementia, speech impairments, personality changes and sexual difficulties.

Most patients with PD are treated with drugs that can result in a range of side effects including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Jerky movements
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • An inability to sleep
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Memory loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Skin rash

About five to 10 percent of patients with PD are prescribed antimuscarinic drugs to help control tremors, bladder problems and depression. According to one study, patients who had been on these drugs for more than two years had twice the level of brain protein clumps and tangles, which are characteristic of Alzheimer’s patients, as patients not taking the drugs. The finding has raised concern among scientists that antimuscarinic drugs could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Prevention is clearly the best option with Parkinson’s disease. There are several steps you can take to minimize your chances of developing the disease.

Eat Fresh, Raw Vegetables

Studies have found that inadequate amounts of the B vitamin folate, known as folic acid, may raise the risk of Parkinson''s disease. Fresh, raw vegetables are an excellent source of folic acid, and it’s easy to incorporate plenty of veggies into your diet if you try vegetable juicing.

Avoid Pesticides and Petrochemical Solvents

Exposure to pesticides, insecticides and herbicides have all been linked to Parkinson’s disease, along with exposure to common petroleum-based hydrocarbon solvents such as paints and glues. If you live in an area that is conducting mosquito fogging for West Nile Virus, be sure to stay indoors to avoid getting a massive dose of pesticides.

When painting rooms in your house, use low-volatile paints and be sure you keep the windows open and have proper ventilation.

Avoid Excess Iron

Eating a diet too high in iron puts you at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. While iron is a necessary part of staying healthy, too much iron can be devastating. Aside from the excess iron that can result from taking iron supplements, iron overload, or hemochromatosis, is actually the most common inherited disease.

Iron can contribute to oxidative stress, which results when cells release toxic substances known as free radicals. Oxidative stress can contribute to the degeneration of brain cells found in Parkinson’s disease.

Measuring iron levels is a very important part of optimizing your health, especially for men and postmenopausal women since excess iron is most common among these groups. However, simply measuring serum iron is a poor way to do this because frequently the serum iron will be normal. The most useful of the indirect measures of iron status in the body is through a measure of the serum ferritin level in conjunction with a total iron binding level. Please read my article "How to Diagnose Iron Overload" for more information.

Avoid Excess Manganese

Manganese is similar to iron in that it can be harmful at excessive levels and can contribute to oxidative stress in the body. High amounts of manganese down-regulates serotonin and dopamine and high levels of manganese are often found in learning disabled or violent individuals. Although it has the potential to create major problems, the medical community pays very little attention to manganese toxicity.

As I said earlier, prevention is key with Parkinson’s. By the time someone comes down with the disease, treatment can become more difficult. While I am not a fan of using supplements, it appears that CoQ10 may be useful for people with this disease.

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