The link between smoking tobacco products and Parkinson’s disease is a complicated one. Initial studies have shown favorable results for smokers in terms of Parkinson’s, but these potential benefits do not outweigh the risks of smoking tobacco products.
Smoking’s Link to Parkinson’s Disease
Studies have shown a definitive link between smoking and Parkinson’s disease, but it’s not the link most people would anticipate. While smoking has been shown to cause a plethora of health issues ranging from cardiovascular disease to COPD to lung cancer, smoking cigarettes seems to offer protection against Parkinson’s.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
To fully understand how smoking can help reduce one’s Parkinson’s risk, an understanding of the disease is necessary. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system. Nerve cells in the brain slowly die, and cause spastic movements common with the disease. These include tremors, shaking in the extremities, postural instability, rigidity, and slowness of movement.
The root of Parkinson’s disease begins in the brain, and symptoms manifest throughout the body as cells continue to die off.
How Smoking may Prevent Parkinson’s Disease
Studies are still needed to determine exactly why smoking may prevent the risk of Parkinson’s, but it is believed to involve the nicotine naturally found in tobacco products. According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, cigarette smokers are up to 60% less likely to get Parkinson’s disease in their lifetimes than those who don’t smoke. As more research is performed, the reduction in Parkinson’s symptoms for smokers becomes even clearer.
Smoking as a Preventative – The Facts
Health officials do not advise smoking for the possibility of preventing Parkinson’s disease, even for those with a family history of the disease. The health implications of smoking are far too great to warrant taking such a risk, as the chances of getting lung cancer, heart disease, or stroke far surpass any potential benefits of smoking.
Other Links Between Smoking and Parkinson’s
Aside from possible prevention, cigarettes and Parkinson’s disease have another potential link. Recent findings show that those who find it easy to quit smoking on the first attempt may have a much higher risk of developing the disease in their lifetimes. The reasons for this aren’t exactly clear, but scientists think it may have something to do with certain people having fewer brain receptors responding to nicotine.
Prevention of Parkinson’s Disease
According to WebMD, there is no real prevention for Parkinson’s disease. With the new findings on nicotine, eventual preventions and treatments may be possible. While smoking isn’t a feasible way to prevent the disease, there are other ways to acquire a daily dose of nicotine without ever having to take a puff on a cigarette. Nicotine patches are one way doctors may consider providing nicotine for those who wish to prevent Parkinson’s disease. No long-term studies have been done on the long-term safety of using nicotine patches. However, current data suggests that doing so may possibly be safe, and it is definitely safer than smoking cigarettes. E-cigarettes and nicotine gums are also available.