More people are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease now than 30 years ago, a new study has indicated.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Neurology, the research found that between 1976 and 2005, rates of the condition increased significantly.
It also revealed that men over the age of 70 were more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than any other demographic. Males were found to have a 17 per cent higher risk of developing parkinsonism - a specific form of Parkinson's disease - and a 24 per cent higher risk of developing Parkinson's itself for every ten years they aged.
However, once over the age of 70, this increased to a 24 per cent higher risk of developing parkinsonism and a 35 per cent higher risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease overall.
According to the team at Mayo Clinic, who conducted the study, this is the first piece of research to identify this trend.
The researchers looked at the complete medical records of 1,000 people living in Olmsted County, Minnesota, who had at least one symptom related to parkinsonism.
"We have reasons to believe that this is a real trend," says Dr Rodolfo Savica, lead author and neurologist at Mayo Clinic.
However, he explained that the trend is unlikely to be caused just by a change in awareness or developments in medicine, suggesting that there has been a genuine increase in the risk of Parkinson's disease over the study period.
"The researchers point to environmental and lifestyle changes as potential causes for the increase," Dr Savica added.
Some risk factors, such as environmental agents like pesticides or smoking, have changed over the last 70 years, which could have at least contributed to the increase in Parkinson's disease.
The findings from the study could help identify patients most at risk of developing these problems in the future, and help them make positive changes to reduce the chance of suffering from Parkinson's disease.
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