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Silent strokes may raise risk of Parkinson's

December 19, 2012

Medical experts have long been perplexed as to why a seemingly healthy adult could suddenly show symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and new research from The University of Manchester may offer some insight. The study suggests that imperceptible events, known as silent strokes, may be to blame.

Silent strokes are similar to more severe events, but they do not come along with many of the common symptoms. Though they are caused by very short blockages of a blood vessel in the brain, researchers say these incidents might damage dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, something which often leads to Parkinson's.

"It is well known that inflammation following a stroke can be very damaging to the brain," lead researcher Dr. Emmanuel Pinteaux said. "But what we didn't fully appreciate was the impact on areas of the brain away from the location of the stroke. Our work identifying that a silent stroke can lead to Parkinson's disease shows it is more important than ever to ensure stroke patients have swift access to anti-inflammatory medication."

Pinteaux also highlights the fact that his findings highlight the importance of following a healthy lifestyle for seniors, because doing so has been shown to prevent strokes as well as Parkinson's disease.

Strokes are among the biggest threats to senior health, and cause about 140,000 U.S. deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, given the connection between the incidents and Parkinson's, preventing them has become even more crucial.

There are a number of stroke prevention strategies, but one of the most effective may be through diet modification. According to the Mayo Clinic, lowering the amount of saturated fat in one's diet is a good start, as is taking steps to lower blood pressure and manage cholesterol.