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Your Healthy Family: Why Parkinson's Disease is on the rise

Posted at 7:42 AM, Apr 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-28 07:48:34-04

NAPLES, Fla. — April is Parkinson's Awareness Month. Parkinson's is a progressive disease of the nervous system that can impact a person's ability to move and talk. And experts say it's on the rise.

“In reality, this is really a health crisis," Larry Sternberg, a retired physician who's wife has Parkinson's Disease, said. “But Parkinson's Disease is not a death sentence. And people can live very fruitful and productive lives with Parkinson's Disease.”

He said that's his message of hope to people getting a Parkinson's Diagnosis as the number of cases continues to steadily rise. Parkinson's is the second leading neurodegenerative disease in our country, only behind Alzheimer's.

"Our estimates that relate to the number of people that are afflicted with Parkinson's Disease has been significantly underestimated. Its probably now 50 percent greater than the original estimate," Sternberg said. "If you look at the prevalence of Parkinson's Disease in our community, in Collier County and Lee County, there are about, by my estimate, 10,000 people afflicted with Parkinson's Disease.”

“It is almost neck and neck with the number of Alzheimer's diagnoses that are happening now," Mary Schoeffel, the Executive Director of the Parkinson's Association of Southwest Florida, said. "As of five years ago, the number of Parkinson's diagnoses was expected to exceed the number of Alzheimer's diagnoses in 2030. Well, it's 2023 right now. So that's just straight down the road. Blink, hi, the day after tomorrow.”

When it comes to Parkinson's Disease, Schoeffel said there are some genetic factors, and even environment an play a role. But she said a lot of the increase in cases is because of age: people are living longer.

“Here in our area, we skew to an older age population. So Florida, this area in general, tends to have a higher rate of Parkinson's Disease," she said.

The Parkinson's Association of Southwest Florida is sponsored by BrightStar Care in Fort Myers and Naples. BrightStar Care is an in-home care agency and a Your Healthy Family partner.