Parkinson's disease strikes many more older adults than previously estimated: research

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(The Hill) — Parkinson’s disease is more common than previous research has shown, affecting 50 percent more people annually than past estimates, according to a new study published Thursday in the academic journal Nature.

Prior research estimated 60,000 people in North America annually were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but the actual incidence rate is 1.5 times higher at 90,000 per year, according to the study.

Researchers found the age-related degenerative brain condition was more common than previously known among adults aged 45 and older, and in another age set of 65 and older, while the incidence rate was higher for men than women.

The study’s authors called for policymakers to address the growing number of adults in North America affected by Parkinson’s disease, noting the economic cost of the disease is $52 billion in the U.S. alone.

“The growth in those diagnosed and living with [Parkinson’s disease] underscores the need for policymakers to confront an increasing strain on clinical services,” they wrote, “as well as the need to provide additional funding for research that can lead to improved therapies if not an outright cure.”

Researchers analyzed five previous studies of adults with Parkinson’s disease that included data through 2012. The authors said the research may be an underestimate and that it had some limitations because it was a retroactive analysis.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the U.S. after Alzheimer’s disease.

Around one million people in the U.S. currently have Parkinson’s disease, a number that is expected to reach 1.2 million by 2030.

James Beck, a co-author of the study and a chief scientific officer at the Parkinson’s Foundation, said the updated estimates show the greater need to address the degenerative brain disease.

“Knowing this information will allow us to better serve people with Parkinson’s and their families and plan for adequate health care services in the future,” Beck said in a statement.

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