Why are Parkinson’s Disease Rates Rising?

Parkinson’s Disease

The Parkinson’s Foundation reports that nearly 1 million people in the United States are now living with Parkinson’s disease (PD)—a number that is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030. After Alzheimer’s disease, it’s the second most common neurodegenerative disease, with nearly 90,000 people nationwide diagnosed each year (and men are 1.5 times more likely to have PD than women). However, perhaps most alarming of all, the World Health Organization adds that, as the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease has doubled in the past 25 years, instances of disability and death are growing at a faster rate for PD than any other neurological disorder worldwide.

The prevalence of Parkinson’s disease has doubled in the past 25 years, and instances of disability and death are growing at a faster rate for PD than any other neurological disorder worldwide. Click To Tweet

With our aging population and as life expectancy rises, we can only expect these numbers to grow. Most PD cases develop after age 60; the National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that only about 5% to 10% of people experience an early onset, which refers to development before age 50. Here, we will take a closer look at what Parkinson’s entails, plus some recent research that’s shedding more light on its link to environmental toxins, and how we can counteract some of its common side effects.

OVERVIEW OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE

The NIH outlines the predominant symptoms of PD as tremors (which may be present in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head), muscle stiffness, slowed movements, or compromised balance and coordination, which can cause falls. In terms of the associated brain changes, nerve cells in the basal ganglia are impaired or killed off. This is the part of the brain that integrates thoughts, feelings, and movements. It’s also involved with feeling pleasure, so when this area is compromised, there is less dopamine produced.

As a result, people with PD can experience not only the physical challenges listed above, but also impairments in cognitive function, such as challenges with memory, attention, and the ability to plan and follow through with tasks. These effects can be worsened due to other symptoms like stress and depression. In advanced cases, those with PD can develop Parkinson’s dementia, which creates more serious memory and thinking problems that can greatly affect the quality of daily life.

While genetics come into play when assessing PD risk, people can also be made more vulnerable by being exposed to certain environmental elements. The Parkinson’s Foundation notes that contributing factors can include:

THE LINK BETWEEN PARKINSON’S DISEASE AND TRICHLOROETHYLENE (TCE)

One chemical that has been studied in greater detail for its association with PD is called trichloroethylene (TCE). According to one study, this industrial solvent and the now-ubiquitous environmental contaminant have been widely used to decaffeinate coffee, degrease metal parts, and dry-clean clothes—even though it was first linked to PD back in 1969. Furthermore, its damaging effects are not limited to only those who work closely with this chemical.

The study notes that it now “pollutes outdoor air, taints groundwater, and contaminates indoor air…evaporates from underlying soil and groundwater and enters homes, workplaces, or schools, often undetected.” Researchers hypothesize that this chemical is one contributing factor—and a preventable one—that is leading to the increase in PD cases worldwide.

4 WAYS TO INCREASE DOPAMINE NATURALLY IN PARKINSON’S PATIENTS

Though PD is clearly a complex disease, influenced by many factors, there are ways to balance certain side effects. For example, because Parkinson’s is associated with low levels of dopamine, it’s helpful to learn more about the various ways to increase dopamine naturally.

As a reminder, dopamine is the chemical in our brains that’s associated with motivation, drive, and stimulation. It’s a chemical that flows in response to certain stimulating substances and activities—everything from cocaine and Ritalin to gambling and technology to ultra-processed foods. However, when dopamine levels dip too low, it can have detrimental effects, including low motivation, low energy, poor concentration, and impulse-control problems. In more serious cases, it can lead to certain forms of depression and ADD/ADHD.

To counteract its reduced levels in those with PD, here are some simple and effective natural ways to boost dopamine levels:

  1. Enjoy some high-intensity physical exercise. Regularly scheduled exercise has been shown to boost mood, thanks in part to its associated release of endorphins, which reduce stress and lead to a feeling of happiness. Physical activity has also been reported to help the brain more efficiently use the dopamine it already has.
  2. Consume the right nutrients. It’s easy to reach for junk foods to try to boost feel-good neurochemicals but resist the urge. Instead, support dopamine production with a diet that is rich in protein and the amino acid tyrosine, which is found in almonds, bananas, avocados, eggs, beans, fish, chicken, and dark chocolate. You can also take natural supplements like L-tyrosine or SAMe.
  3. Find a purpose. By engaging in work that is meaningful or exciting, people are more likely to feel the beneficial effects of dopamine release. You can also obtain this result by giving back through charitable efforts—in fact, even just thinking about helping others has been shown to have a positive effect!
  4. Avoid “synthetic” stimulants. It sounds counterintuitive, but behaviors that drum up too much artificial excitement, such as drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or engaging in risk-taking activities, can have the opposite effect over time. They eventually overwhelm your pleasure centers and deplete dopamine, which leads to feelings of numbness or an inability to experience pleasure.

DIAGNOSING AND TREATING PARKINSON’S DISEASE

In addition to a range of medications that can be prescribed to reduce some of PD’s effects, such as tremors and muscle stiffness, the NIH points out that techniques like deep brain stimulation and other tactics may help. These can include therapies to improve physical abilities like walking and speaking. Brain SPECT scans can also help uncover underlying issues like brain injury or toxin exposure, making them extremely helpful in looking at the bigger picture and putting the right treatment plan in place.

Other recommended strategies are based on improving total well-being—steps like a healthy diet, flexibility-boosting exercises, and strength training, stress busters like massage therapy, and gentle movements like yoga and tai chi. As a bonus, these will also help stimulate dopamine to counteract those lower levels discussed above—a win-win for improving both physical and mental health over the long term.

Memory loss, cognitive decline, mood changes, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

8 Comments »

  1. Hello, I have dystonia which is also a movement disorder. Will these same recommendations apply to me as well? Any additional suggestions?

    Comment by Ginny — July 3, 2023 @ 9:43 AM

  2. I have been diagnosed with bulbar ALS. What research have you done on this horrific disease?

    Comment by carole thomas — July 7, 2023 @ 5:04 AM

  3. And isn’t it true that you should not take L tyrosine if you’re taking levodopa for Parkinson’s?

    Comment by Bill Speight — July 7, 2023 @ 7:22 AM

  4. My late husband was diagnosed with PSP is that the same PD

    Comment by Haya — July 7, 2023 @ 10:32 AM

  5. Thank you for this information. I was diagnosed over a year ago. It is very difficult to move enough. I feel very stiff and slow. I also have back pain when I stand over 5 minutes.

    Comment by Mary Broughton — July 8, 2023 @ 7:48 PM

  6. I stopped most of my Parkinson’s disease medications due to severe side effects and I started on herbal treatments from Natural Herbs Centre (naturalherbscentre. com), the treatment has made a very huge difference for me. My symptoms including body weakness and Swallowing difficulties disappeared after few months on the treatment. I am getting active again since starting this treatment.

    Comment by David Wisner — July 10, 2023 @ 11:37 AM

  7. The love of my life for the last 17 years was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease nearly 4 years ago, at age 52. He had a stooped posture, tremors, muscle stiffness, horrible driving skills, and slow movement. He was placed on Sinemet 50/200 at night for 7 months and then Sifrol and rotigotine were introduced which replaced the Sinemet but he had to stop due to side effects. He started having hallucinations, lost touch with reality. Suspecting it was the medications I took him off the Siferol (with the doctor’s knowledge) In March this year his primary physician suggested we started him on Natural Herbs Centre ( Natural herbs centre . com ) Ayurveda Parkinson’s Protocol which eased his anxiety a bit, i’m happy to report this PD Ayurvedic treatment worked very effectively. His Parkinson’s is totally under control, he had a total decline in symptoms, the tremors, shaking, stiffness, slow movement and speech problems stopped. I can personally vouch for these remedy but you would probably need to decide what works best for you

    Comment by Leslie Bartnicki — September 14, 2023 @ 9:39 AM

  8. My husband is 54 and has had Parkinson’s for around 3-4 years. It is a debilitating disease that only gets worse and needs some serious funding to find out 1 because the cure is out there. What causes it and 2. some better treatment for it which multivitamincare .org have the guaranteed cure for PD. He takes over 13 weeks treatment from Multivitamin care formula that finally cure him,as there is no-one available to help unless you have $4,000.00 per week to pay for a Nurse, but with this herbal system you can get rid of your Parkinson effectively ,he had tremors for several years and was gradually becoming worse before we found PD supplement from Multivitamincare that was able to get rid of my husband disease and alleviate all symptoms within the short period of his usage.,they have the best medication for PD.

    Comment by Rebecca Callahan — October 23, 2023 @ 2:46 AM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Contact Us

Pre-order Daniel Amen, MD’s new book “Raising Mentally Strong Kids” and get 5 bonus gifts! Click here for details.

X