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How Heart Health Factors May Affect Your Parkinson's Risk

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Aug 30th 2019

new article illustration

FRIDAY, Aug. 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- People who have reduced blood flow in their brain due to medical conditions and lifestyle habits may be vulnerable to Parkinson's disease, new research suggests.

Those brain blood flow risk factors -- which also affect heart health -- include prior stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart failure, sleep apnea, diabetes and smoking.

The findings suggest that controlling those risk factors may help prevent Parkinson's disease, according to researchers.

The study involved more than 1 million people on Medicare who were followed for five years. Of these, about 15,500 were diagnosed with Parkinson's and nearly 82,000 with Alzheimer's disease.

While the study found an association between cerebrovascular risk factors and Parkinson's disease, it did not find that those risk factors actually cause Parkinson's, explained lead author Dr. Benjamin Kummer, who was a vascular neurology fellow at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City when the study was conducted. He's now an assistant professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, also in New York.

Many people know that cerebrovascular risk factors increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but don't realize that they could increase the risk of Parkinson's, too, according to study senior author Dr. Babak Navi, a neurologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center.

"I think new knowledge about this association is empowering because it gives doctors and their patients another reason to get cerebrovascular risk factors under control," he said in a Weill Cornell news release.

Having had an ischemic stroke -- in which blood flow to the brain is blocked -- is probably the most serious cerebrovascular risk factor, according to Navi.

"If you have a stroke, you have cerebrovascular disease," he said.

Also, Parkinson's disease can sometimes develop due to a stroke in a region of the brain called the basal ganglia, which is responsible for voluntary movement, Navi said.

The study was published Aug. 29 in the journal Annals of Neurology.

About 650,000 Americans have been diagnosed with Parkinson's, a neurodegenerative disease that can cause symptoms such as debilitating tremors, slowing of movement, and changes in speech.

More information

The Parkinson's Foundation has more on Parkinson's disease.