Parkinson's disease: Anxiety may double the risk of Parkinson's | Delhi News

New Delhi: People aged 50 years and above who experience anxiety should not ignore it as they may be twice as likely to develop Parkinson's disease as calm and content people of the same age group, reveals a recent study published in the British Journal of General Practice. Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative condition worldwide. It is estimated that it will affect 14.2 million people by 2040, mainly due to increased life expectancy. The study confirmed that depression, sleep disturbances, fatigue, cognitive impairment, hypotension, tremor, rigidity, balance loss and constipation are risk factors for PD in people with anxiety. Delhi-based neurologists emphasise that this finding may aid them in early diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's disease. Still, it is important to recognise that anxiety, though a potential early symptom, is only one aspect of the multifaceted nature of Parkinson's disease. While this study sheds light on the link between anxiety and Parkinson's, further research is needed to fully understand the complexities of this neurodegenerative disorder. “This study prompts healthcare professionals to pay more attention to anxiety symptoms in elderly patients and incorporate them into a comprehensive diagnostic process,” said Dr Jaideep Bansal, Senior Director and Head of Neurology at Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh. “By recognising and addressing anxiety in a timely manner, we can enhance the overall well-being of those at risk,” suggests Dr Bansal. Research suggests that anxiety may appear before motor symptoms and individuals with PD typically experience high levels of anxiety. “One theory suggests that PD may affect the brain's fear circuitry and may be associated with cognitive changes that occur before other symptoms become apparent,” said Dr (Col) Joy Dev Mukherjee, Vice President and Head of Neurology at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket. Dr PN Renjen, Senior Neurology Consultant, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, said that chronic anxiety can lead to high levels of stress hormones, especially cortisol. The increase in cortisol can damage dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, a characteristic feature of Parkinson’s disease. “This damage can disrupt the normal functioning of the brain’s motor control systems, leading to typical Parkinson’s symptoms such as tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia,” he said. These processes collectively contribute to the neurodegenerative progression seen in Parkinson’s disease. “Some people may experience persistent and unexplained feelings of anxiety and restlessness, which is indicative of a generalized anxiety disorder. Others may experience sudden episodes of intense fear, accompanied by physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat and sweating, which is characteristic of panic attacks. Additionally, social situations can increase self-consciousness and discomfort, leading to social anxiety. These manifestations of anxiety in PD often arise without an apparent external cause and persist for a long time,” said Dr Biplav Das, director and senior consultant, Neurology, Narayana Hospital, Gurgaon. Anxiety is a common experience that everyone faces He added that it is important to note that “not all anxious patients will develop Parkinson’s disease”. Fortunately, anxiety can be managed through both pharmacological and non-pharmacological means. “Adjusting your lifestyle, exercising, yoga, seeking therapy and taking prescribed medications can help reduce your chances of developing PD.

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