While drinking coffee and exercising might protect you from getting Parkinson’s disease, how to prevent this increasingly common neurodegenerative disease is largely still a mystery. Now new research suggests that managing another increasingly common health condition—one that you can control—reduces the likelihood you’ll get Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement and usually begins around age 60. Incidence of the disease has been increasing. Korean researchers wondered whether there is any connection between the increase in Parkinson’s and another health condition that has also been on the rise, metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a “constellation” of any three or more of five underlying conditions—abdominal obesity…high triglycerides (blood fats)…low HDL cholesterol…high blood pressure…high blood sugar.

For the study, the researchers looked at health records of the population of South Korea age 40 and older, including six million people who had metabolic syndrome but did not have Parkinson’s. Over an average five years of follow up, about 44,000 participants in the study developed Parkinson’s.

Results: The researchers found that people who had metabolic syndrome were 2.2 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s. Further, the more of the five underlying metabolic syndrome conditions that a person had, the greater the likelihood of having Parkinson’s. And each condition was separately associated with increased risk…

  • Low HDL cholesterol—23% more risk for Parkinson’s
  • High blood sugar—21% more risk for Parkinson’s
  • Abdominal obesity—13% more risk for Parkinson’s
  • High triglycerides—13% more risk for Parkinson’s
  • High blood pressure—5% more risk for Parkinson’s

Bottom line: There was already reason enough to avoid metabolic syndrome, which increases your chances of getting diabetes, having heart disease or a stroke and dying of any cause. Now dodging Parkinson’s disease looks like another powerful reason.

While not part of the study, the good news is that you can avoid metabolic syndrome…and if you have it, you can do something about it. Lose weight if you need to…exercise…and manage your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.

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