What increases my risk for Parkinson's disease?

Some risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include genetics (heredity), exposure to environmental toxins, a chemical imbalance in the body, or inflammation of tissues in the nervous system. Some protective factors appear to be caffeine use, ibuprofen use, exercise and elevated uric acid levels (such as in gout). It has also been found that smoking may decrease the risk of Parkinson’s disease; however, smoking causes many more serious health problems and is not recommended.

Not everything about Parkinson's disease is clear, so currently, it is believed that anyone could develop the disorder. Of course, some are at higher risk that others. As you grow older, your risk increases. Men are more likely to develop Parkinson's that women. Genetics may play a role as up to 20 percent of those with Parkinson's are related to someone who also had it. Although not as common, prolonged exposure to pesticides or herbicides can also increase the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Nader Pouratian, MD

Several risk factors have been identified in the literature for developing a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, most are not modifiable or cannot be changed. The strongest influence on risk of Parkinson’s disease is having a family member with the disease, increasing the chances of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by three or four times. Other risk factors include history of constipation or brain injury, rural residence, history of pesticide or herbicide exposure and use of well water. Incidentally, tobacco use and caffeine consumption are consistently identified as protective, but are not recommended means of reducing risk of developing Parkinson’s disease because of the well-recognized complications otherwise associated with these habits.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.