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Rising Tide: New Study Finds Prevalence of Parkinson's Increasing

A study released last week by the Parkinson's Foundation found that the prevalence of Parkinson's disease is increasing. By 2030, it's estimated that 1.2 million Americans will be living with the disease.

This nearly doubles previous estimates. And there is good reason for that. Most estimates of Parkinson's in the U.S. were based on a very small study conducted in 1978 in Copiah County, Mississippi, that included only 26 cases of Parkinson's disease. More recent research discovered that Copiah County has one of the lowest Parkinson's rates in the entire country. The new study, called the Parkinson's Prevalence Project, "combines data from five different recent or current projects covering four different regions across North America and compares these to prevalence estimates generated using nationwide data." This robust method ensures a more accurate and complete picture of Parkinson's and the people who have it.

The Prevalence Project estimates that nearly 1 million Americans over age 45 will be diagnosed with Parkinson's by 2020, a number expected to rise to 1.24 million by 2030. It found that men are at higher risk than women, and that risk for everyone increases with age. The investigators also found regional differences, though explaining them was beyond the scope of this study. The authors surmise the differences might be due to access to doctors with greater experience in diagnosing Parkinson's, or a higher rate of environmental and genetic risk factors in certain areas. These findings echo those from a study released late last year on global rates of Parkinson's.

The increasing number of people with Parkinson's will result in a higher burden on care partners, the eldercare system, and Medicare and Medicaid. Last year, our CEO Todd Sherer, PhD, called for "a national Parkinson's plan" (similar to those previously devised in Alzheimer's, cancer and HIV). The Michael J. Fox Foundation is doing all we can to find effective treatments for Parkinson's as quickly as possible. As always, we thank you for your support.

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