Parkinson’s is a scary disease.
Not only does it leave you with tremors and vocal spasms, but it can also limit your ability to control your movements. And, it’s progressive so once you have it, your doctor’s will tell you that it’s only going to get worse.
Add to that, the fact that there’s no clear cause for it — making it a disease that can easily strike fear in most of us.
There are several factors that increase your risk of the disease:
- Your age – Being over 60 raises your risk.
- Your gender – More men than women are diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
- Where you live – People who live in rural areas have a higher risk of the disease due to higher exposure to pesticides.
- Genetics – If you have a family member with the disease you’re more likely to end up with it too.
Now that you know what puts you at risk, can anything provide protection?
The answer is yes but it might sound strange…
A new study has proven that having had an appendectomy could lower your risk of Parkinson ’s disease by as much as 25 percent.
A reservoir for proteins linked to Parkinson’s
Research published in Science Translational Medicine found that in the general population, people who had an appendectomy were 19 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s.
The effect was further magnified for people who live in rural areas, with a 25 percent reduced risk of the disease for those who had appendectomies. The difference is linked to that exposure to pesticides in rural areas we talked about earlier.
And, this is a study you can take to the bank since it is the largest of its kind ever!
Data for the study were gleaned not only based on visualization and analysis of the organs from test subjects, but it also used two large health databases – just one of which was the Swedish National Patient Registry with records for 1,698,000 people followed up to 52 years, a total of nearly 92 million person-years.
“Our results point to the appendix as a site of origin for Parkinson’s and provide a path forward for devising new treatment strategies that leverage the gastrointestinal tract’s role in the development of the disease,” said Viviane Labrie, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and senior author of the study. “Despite having a reputation as largely unnecessary, the appendix actually plays a major part in our immune systems, in regulating the makeup of our gut bacteria and now, as shown by our work, in Parkinson’s disease.”
Early in life is key
According to the scientists, the reason that the appendix plays a role in Parkinson’s development is that it is a reservoir for abnormally folded alpha-synuclein proteins, which are closely linked to Parkinson’s onset and progression.
They found that when the appendix and therefore those proteins are removed early in life, years before the disease can begin, your risk of ending up with Parkinson’s goes down. The study also showed that an appendectomy can delay disease progression of the disease in people who go on to develop Parkinson’s, pushing back the initial diagnosis by an average of 3.6 years.
Unfortunately, they also found that removing the organ after the disease starts has no benefits. Having an appendectomy also made no difference for people who had a genetic predisposition to the disease.
Beyond the appendix
This means that if you had an appendectomy when you were younger, you can count yourself lucky and you are less likely to end up with Parkinson’s (as long as you don’t have a family history of the disease).
But, what about those of us who still have an appendix?
Luckily, there are still things you can do:
- Boost your intake of brain-loving B vitamins, especially B3, shown in a study at the University of Leicester to help prevent and possibly even improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
- Exercise – A Swedish study found that people who are sedentary have a 43 percent higher risk of Parkinson’s than those who get at least six hours a week of physical activity.
- Get your caffeine – Coffee and tea drinkers rejoice! Caffeine may lower your risk of developing Parkinson’s.
- Spend time in the sun – A study in Denmark found that people who spend more time outdoors have a decreased risk of the disease. And, research in the U.S. found that people with Parkinson’s have lower vitamin D levels than those without the disease. While those studies might not be definitive enough to say low vitamin D levels increase your risk of Parkinson’s, they’re enough for me to say that I want to spend more time in the sun.
- Environmental Factors — Parkinson’s Foundation
- Appendix identified as a potential starting point for Parkinson’s disease — American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
- Protect your brain from Parkinson’s — Easy Health Options
- Parkinson’s disease — Vitamin D Council