They say that April is Parkinson's Awareness Month -- and as someone who's lived with a Parkinson's diagnosis for over a dozen years, I can't let it slip by without a mention.
Of course, I’m a little skeptical of any of these “awareness months” for any disease or health concern, as we need to be aware all 12 months out of the year.
So, whether it’s March, April, May, or beyond, I’ll keep bringing you the latest in what risk factors you should avoid and what natural therapies can help.
The newest research to come out isn’t about a neurotoxin that may cause Parkinson’s… or even a new-fangled gadget or exercise routine that may help you gain some control over your movements.
It’s about your head – specifically how what happens to the outside of it can mess up the inside.
In recent years, we've heard a lot about how concussions are par for the course among NFL players and professional boxers. But unfortunately, these traumatic brain injuries can also strike mere mortals who suffer some kind of bump or blow to the head, too.
And according to a new study, having even ONE concussion over the course of your life can significantly boost your chances of developing Parkinson's disease later on.
In the study, UCSF researchers followed over 325,000 U.S. military veterans -- half of whom had experienced TBI at some point in their past -- for a dozen years.
None of the vets had Parkinson's when the study began -- but by the end, those in the TBI group were 56 percent MORE likely to develop Parkinson's than those in the other.
And those with a history of more severe TBI were 83 percent more likely to develop Parkinson's than those without TBI.
Why? Well, it could be that dopamine-producing cells get damaged when your brain rattles around inside your skull – and we know that those are the very cells that die off in Parkinson's.
More research is needed to find out if TBI could cause the buildup of abnormal proteins in your gray matter, a hallmark of Parkinson’s.
TBI has also been linked to ongoing brain inflammation AND the disruption of your brain's ability to clear out toxins -- both of which are risk factors for Parkinson's.
Now, there's no way to turn back the clock and undo a concussion you've had in the past. But fortunately, there are some therapies you can try, including:
• Natural anti-inflammatories like resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes (and also available in supplement form), can ease the impact of concussion on your brain -- even DECADES after the fact.
• Green tea’s plant compounds and caffeine have neuroprotective effects that counteract concussion and slash your risk of Parkinson's.
• High doses of vitamin E and C may improve brain function after TBI.
If you've had TBI in the past, talk to a doc who’s well-versed in integrative medicine about a treatment plan that's right for you.
And if you haven’t, this doesn’t mean that you have to walk around wearing a football helmet. Just tread carefully when you’re moving about – especially if you’re a little on the older side and/or you’re on any meds that make you feel “loopy.”
Seniors are particularly susceptible to concussions from falls, so wear those glasses, for goodness’ sake!