Conditions

Parkinson’s Disease: Are Women More Likely To Die Prematurely Than Men?

Women are likelier to die prematurely from Parkinson's Disease (PD) than men since this neurodegenerative disease, for which there is no known cure, progresses faster in women than in men.

On the other hand, men run twice the risk of developing PD compared to women. Men are also more often affected by PD than women at a ratio of around 3:2.

The experience of Parkinson's disease does differ between men and women. Doctors note these differences might be caused by differences in the underlying biology of the disease that typically occurs in people over the age of 60.

"It is becoming increasingly evident that (Parkinson's disease) differs in women and men," Dr. Fabio Blandini, senior author of a study published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease that reviewed the sex-based differences in PD, said.

"Recent research findings suggest biological sex also impacts on disease risk factors and, potentially, on molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of (Parkinson's disease)."

Understanding the sex-related differences among people with PD might help doctors tailor treatments more effectively while improving patient care, stated the study conducted by a team of scientists from the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology at the IRCCS Mondino Foundation in Pavia, Italy.

The study involved more than 950 people. It found certain nonmotor Parkinson's disease symptoms were more common in females and affected them more severely.

These symptoms more common in women include depression, fatigue, pain, restless legs, constipation, weight change, loss of smell or taste and excessive sweating.

A reduction in mental capacity that can occur with Parkinson's disease tends to be worse in males. It's also known that males with PD are more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and experience greater MCI progression in the later stages of the disease compared to women. MCI often precedes dementia.

Because of these stark differences between men and women with PD, it has been suggested that the development of Parkinson's involves different biological mechanisms in males compared to females.

What is immediately obvious concerns the impact of female hormones such as estrogen that seem to protect neurons affected by PD.

The fact males and postmenopausal females have similar risks of developing PD appears to support this observation. The levels of estrogen in both males and postmenopausal females are lower than those of premenopausal females.

"Sex hormones act throughout the entire brain of both males and females and sex differences are now highlighted in brain regions and functions not previously considered as subjected to such differences, opening the way to a better understanding of sex-related behavior and functions," Dr. Silvia Cerri, Ph.D., study first author, said.

Cerri cited evidence suggesting age-related deterioration of glial cells, which support neurons, may contribute to the onset and progression of PD.

"Since estrogens have anti-inflammatory properties, their actions throughout the lifespan could partially account for sex-related risk and manifestation of (Parkinson's disease)."

Michael J. Fox Talks About Accepting Parkinson's Disease, Steps Towards Finding A Cure Michael J. Fox was on the Late Show with David Letterman last night to talk about Parkinson’s Awareness Month (now through the end of April), from his own diagnosis to the steps his foundation is taking towards finding a cure.“It was pretty scary,” Fox told Letterman about the time after being diagnosed with the chronic and progressive disease. “I was 29-years-old, so it was the last thing I expected to hear. I thought I hurt my shoulder because I had a twitch in my pinky…and the doctor said, ‘You have Parkinson’s disease. The good news is you have about 10 years of work left.’”Perhaps to his doctor’s surprise Fox is still working 22 years later. Eventually, Fox added, he realized he could have been diagnosed with something worse, terminal even, so he learned to accept it. And when realized he was also in a position to make a difference, he added, “it’s just, like, quit your bitching and get on with it.”According to The Michael J. Fox Foundation's website, since 2000, the foundation has funded more than $450 million to speed a cure for Parkinson’s disease; 52 percent has been invested into altering the disease, while 22 percent has been invested into defining biomarkers or ways to identify the disease. Fox explained to Letterman identifying biomarkers is a way to spot the disease before it develops,Additionally, he and the foundation are looking into possibly developing a vaccine — to which Letterman was curious a bit more about the process of meeting these goals. Fox said he encounters disappintment all the time; "science is hard."“I have great admiration for you,” David Letterman concluded. "You're the original tough guy." Youtube

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