Anxiety Tied to Doubling of Parkinson's Risk

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Key Takeaways

  • People with anxiety have double the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease

  • Certain Parkinson’s symptoms that appear in middle-aged people with anxiety seem to foreshadow the disorder

  • This means anxiety could be an early indicator of Parkinson’s

WEDNESDAY, June 26, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Anxiety could be an early warning sign of Parkinson's disease, a new study finds.

People with anxiety have at least double the risk of developing Parkinson’s compared to those without the mood disorder, results show.

Further, specific Parkinson’s symptoms serve as warning signs of the disorder in people with anxiety, researchers found.

“By understanding that anxiety and the mentioned [symptoms] are linked to a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease over the age of 50, we hope that we may be able to detect the condition earlier and help patients get the treatment they need,” said co-lead researcher Dr. Juan Bazo Avarez, a senior research fellow with University College London Epidemiology & Health.

Parkinson’s disease causes problems with movement, including shaking, stiffness and problems with balance and coordination, according to the National Institute on Aging.

The disease occurs due to the death of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a chemical that is important to motor control.

Parkinson’s is the world’s fastest growing neurodegenerative disorder, researchers said. It currently affects nearly 10 million people around the world.

For the new study, researchers analyzed British health records for nearly 110,000 people who developed anxiety after age 50 between 2008 and 2018. Their medical data was compared to more than 878,000 people without anxiety.

Researchers specifically looked for Parkinson’s symptoms -- such as sleep problems, depression, tremor, balance issues -- that cropped up between a diagnosis of anxiety and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

They found the risk of Parkinson’s increased twofold in people with anxiety.

They also found that symptoms like depression, poor sleep, fatigue, cognitive impairment, low blood pressure, tremors, rigidity, balance issues and constipation were early signs of Parkinson’s in people with anxiety.

“Anxiety is not as well researched as other early indicators of Parkinson’s disease,” said co-lead researcher Anette Schrag, a professor of clinical neurosciences with the University College London Queen Square Institute of Neurology.

“Further research should explore how the early occurrence of anxiety relates to other early symptoms and to the underlying progression of Parkinson’s in its early stages,” Schrag added in a UCL news release.

Researchers said they also need to figure out why anxiety might be linked to Parkinson’s.

The new study was published June 24 in the British Journal of General Practice.

More information

The National Institute on Aging has more about Parkinson’s disease.

SOURCE: University College London, news release, June 24, 2024

What This Means For You

People with anxiety might ask their doctor for a screening for Parkinson’s disease, to see if they might be at risk for the movement disorder.

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