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In Japan, specialists from Nagoya University have found what may be a game-changer regarding Parkinson’s disease, the degenerative disorder that causes uncontrollable tremors: blood pressure levels, hematocrit levels (percentage of red blood cells in the blood), and serum cholesterol levels in Parkinson’s patients vary from the standard long before actual symptoms show up.

This significant finding means that a change may be coming as to how doctors diagnose and treat Parkinson’s. Routine checkups may be enough to detect Parkinson’s disease years before symptoms appear. Although presently, there is no cure, earlier detection and treatment lend themselves to better overall health and prognosis for Parkinson’s patients. 

A deficiency in the neurotransmitter dopamine causes Parkinson’s disease. By the time a Parkinson’s patient starts displaying motor symptoms such as loss of balance, stiffness, and shaking, over half of their dopaminergic neurons are gone. That being said, milder symptoms like constipation, REM sleep behavior disorder, depression, and loss of smell can occur 10 to 20 years before any motor symptoms appear, earlier research suggests. 

Study author Professor Masahisa Katsuno of the Graduate School of Medicine at Nagoya University said in a university release, “If we can detect biological changes in the patients’ bodies well before the onset of the motor symptoms, we can start medical treatments in an early stage.”

For the study published in Scientific Reports, the authors selected 22 men and 23 women being treated for Parkinson’s. With many years of general checkup data, pre-dating their Parkinson’s diagnoses, researchers had a lot of information to analyze. 

They also analyzed the health data of a control group of 120 men and women in good health. They compared baseline readings among the Parkinson’s patients and healthy participants after being separated by gender. 

The men with Parkinson’s showed lower levels of weight, BMI, serum creatine, hematocrit, and total and low-density cholesterol than their healthy counterparts. Female Parkinson’s patients had higher levels of blood pressure and enzymes called aspartate aminotransferase than their healthy counterparts.

The researchers then looked for variations in the readings before motor symptoms started to appear. They found that women exhibit higher blood pressure, and men show lower hematocrit and total and low-density cholesterol levels.

Prof. Katsuno stated, “In this study, we found that blood pressure, hematocrit, and serum cholesterol levels are potential biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease before the onset of its motor symptoms. This finding indicates that general health checkups can help detect early signs of developing Parkinson’s disease.”

He also said that they are “conducting clinical trials of medication in the individuals who are considered, based on their checkup data, to be at high risk for Parkinson’s, in an attempt to prevent the development of the disease in them.” 

Here’s hoping this medical advancement advances quickly!