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What lies behind Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases?


27.06.2012
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The ageing of the Spanish population has turned two of the commonest forms of dementia into disorders affecting over 20% of the population aged over 80. Along with its impact for individuals and their families, the economic burden it entails makes strategies of prevention and treatment especially necessary.
 
In the last few decades, an unprecedented effort has been made to identify the origin, and early changes and damage caused by the disorder, and to find ways to slow or delay their progress, and even, hopefully, one day be able to reverse changes in the brain after they have begun.
 
In a paper recently published in the scientific journal Neurología, Jaume Campdelacreu from the Bellvitge University Hospital, offers a thorough review of the environmental factors and agents that have been consistently found as the possible “triggers” for an individual's genetic or biological susceptibility.
Starting with Alzheimer’s disease, there is strong evidence that a history of high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels during middle age, and smoking, increase the risk of the disease. Obviously, these three symptoms, referred to as "syndrome X," are also risk factors for the second most frequent form of dementia in our environment, namely that of vascular origin. Smoking, hypertension and hyperlipemia therefore constitute a cursed triad for the future of our brain's capabilities.
 
Factors causing Parkinson’s disease

In the case of Parkinson’s disease, a disorder traditionally considered to affect movement (hence the sufferer is affected by varying and increasing degrees of trembling, rigidity, and slowness of movements), and as treatments to address the motor component have improved, the possibility has emerged of dementia appearing as the disease progresses, with somewhat different symptoms.
 
Various studies have found a slightly increased risk of Parkinson’s disease among individuals with a history of high level of milk consumption (males), chronic anaemia, traumatic brain damage, and high iron intake. By contrast, the risk of Parkinson’s is lower in the groups studied among individuals with frequent tobacco and coffee consumption, and those with low levels of uric acid.
 
Protecting against Alzheimer’s

What might offer protection against Alzheimer’s disease? Although the evidence is not very consistent, it could be said that limiting aluminium levels in drinking water, reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields, preventing the effects of diabetes mellitus and obesity in middle age, and avoiding heavy alcohol consumption could alll be beneficial. In addition to these general health factors, physical exercise and a good cognitive reserve might contribute to preventing or at least delaying onset of the disease in biologically vulnerable persons.
 
Source: Javier Sánchez García

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