If You Live Here, Your Parkinson's Risk Is Higher, New Study Says

Results show that this locale can make you 1.5 times more likely to develop the condition.

Where you choose to live tends to have one of the biggest effects on your day-to-day life. Some people opt for a city because they enjoy the daily convenience of walking to work or running errands on foot, while others prefer the peace and quiet of rural life. But according to a new study, there may be some unintended health consequences that come with where you choose to settle down. The researchers found that if you live in a certain area, your risk of developing Parkinson's disease increases dramatically. Read on to see if your environment could be putting you in danger.

RELATED: 96 Percent of People With Parkinson's Have This in Common, Study Says.

Living on a busy street puts you at a higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Washington traffic

If you live in an area with a lot of action, you may be putting yourself in danger of developing Parkinson's later in life. The new study published in JAMA Neurology has found that living on a busy street could increase your risk of Parkinson's disease by 1.5 times due to the bad air quality found there.

"The development of Parkinson's may be promoted by exposure to air pollution," study author Sun Ju Chung, PhD, a professor at the University of Ulsan College of Medicine in Seoul, said in a statement.

People who lived in areas of high air pollution were 41 percent more likely to develop Parkinson's.

smokestacks clog up air in city

To find their results, researchers tracked 78,830 people aged 40 and older who lived in the South Korean city of Seoul from Jan. 2007 through Dec. 2015. The team then calculated the average air pollution and smog reported by the city's districts for the addresses of each of the participants.

Results showed that those who lived in the top quarter of areas that reported the most air pollution were 41 percent more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than the bottom quartile. The findings held even after the team took other risk factors—such as socioeconomic status and other illnesses—into account.

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Exposure to certain air pollutants can cause inflammation in the brain, which can lead to Parkinson's.

Hamburg traffic, worst things about the suburbs

The researchers say that their findings support a theory that airborne toxins can be inhaled and enter the brain through the bloodstream, which then causes inflammation that can do damage and result in Parkinson's. The team specifically cited nitrogen dioxide (NO2)—which is a potent byproduct of fossil fuel use emitted by vehicles and factories—as a major health concern.

"Air pollution is a significant public health hazard. More than 80 percent of urban area residents are exposed to levels that exceed limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO)," Chung said in the statement. "Recently, it has been identified to be associated with neurodegenerative diseases through systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, and direct invasion into the brain."

Researchers say new policies are needed to stop the increase in reported Parkinson's cases.

parkinsons disease hands

According to the Parkinson's Foundation, close to one million people in the United States are currently living with Parkinson's disease, with the number expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030. Researchers from this new Korean study say that their results should help further the calls for officials to address the growing health concerns resulting from pollution.

"In this large cohort study, a statistically significant association between NO2 exposure and Parkinson's risk was identified," Chung said. "This finding suggests the role of air pollutants in Parkinson's development, advocating for the need to implement a targeted public health policy."

RELATED: If You Do This at Night, It May Be an Early Sign of Parkinson's, Study Says.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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