As strange as it may sound, it turns out that certain personalities could be more at risk for Parkinson’s disease than others are.
The actor Michael J. Fox brought this disorder into the spotlight in 1998 with a public announcement that he suffered from Parkinson’s. Even though Fox was only about 30 at the time of his diagnosis, this neurological disorder is usually diagnosed after the age of 50.
Parkinson’s destroys or impairs nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls muscle movement, causing intermittent trembling, muscle stiffness, slow movement, difficulty maintaining balance, and problems with walking and coordination. These symptoms become worse over time. However, there are treatments for the disease, and research continues to look into its cause.
A recent British study actually aimed at looking into the roles of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine in protection from the disease. Yes, I did say, “protection from.” It has been rumored that the bad habits of smoking as well as drinking alcohol and coffee could reduce a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. This is a very intriguing notion, considering the major negative views that we now have of these substances.
So, researchers decided to investigate this link, plus the personality traits behind it, and they came up with some findings that you might find very interesting.
The study involved 106 patients with Parkinson’s disease and 106 healthy patients, as a control group. Information on the subjects’ smoking and drinking habits was collected, and they all took several tests to determine their personality type and emotional health.
The researchers discovered that the individuals who had Parkinson’s smoked less, as well as drank less alcohol and caffeine. This confirmed earlier findings, so it wasn’t that mind-blowing a finding. However, the surprising part was that the subjects with the disease proved to be shyer, more cautious and less likely to take risks, and more prone to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Now, this could mean a few things. It’s possible that there’s a genetic link between personality and the disease, which would suggest that the aforementioned bad habits could provide some kind of shield against Parkinson’s.
Another field expert has a different explanation. Dr. Kevin Black postulates that the cause of Parkinson’s disease starts very early by affecting personality type, including the
capacity for addiction to cigarettes, alcohol, or caffeine, before causing the more well-known symptoms such as tremors. He looks at this study as proof that these bad habits do not have any protective role when it comes to the development of the neurological disease.
It’s really a question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Can personality predict Parkinson’s, or does the disease determine certain characteristics in its victims? Obviously, there’s no clear answer to this question just yet. More good-quality studies must be done before you can justify lighting up that cigarette.
For now, I’d say go with the bulk of evidence that strongly suggests you should avoid smoking entirely. Also, be sure to limit your alcohol and caffeine intake.