History of Smoking Reduces Risk of Parkinson’s Disease

By Kelly Lohr

Believe it or not, a new study has shown that a history of cigarette smoking may actually benefit your health.  Over the last decade, Honglei Chen led a study out of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina examining long-term health effects of the habit.  Over 300,000 AARP members between the ages of 50 to 71 were surveyed about lifestyle choices over a ten-year period.  Of these subjects, 0.05% of the individuals developed Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the breakdown of cells which release the neurotransmitter dopamine in a brain area known as the substantia nigra.   Typical symptoms of Parkinson’s include uncontrollable muscle movements, poor posture, and rigidity.  Of the participants from Chen’s study, it was found that current smokers reduced their risk of Parkinson’s disease by 44% as compared to non-smokers.  Previous smokers who had quit reduced their risk of Parkinson’s by 22%.

Interestingly, the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease did not change based on how many cigarettes a person smoked per day.  Instead, the length of the history of smoking was correlated to reduction in disease risk.  Those who smoked for at least 40 years were 46% less likely to develop Parkinson’s, whereas those who smoked between 30 and 39 years reduced their risk by 35%.  However, individuals who smoked for nine years or less only reduced their risk by 8%.

Despite Chen’s findings, smoking does not slow the progression of Parkinson’s once it develops.  For this reason, experts do not suggest that nicotine or other chemicals in cigarettes should be considered as effective Parkinson’s disease treatments.  Despite this, an improved understanding of the mechanisms behind the reduced risk may lead to breakthroughs in the causes of the disease.

For more information, visit http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/abstract/74/11/878.

Published by

Kelly Lohr

Kelly is a senior neuroscience major from Norvelt, PA. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in neuroscience after graduation.

11 thoughts on “History of Smoking Reduces Risk of Parkinson’s Disease”

  1. I wanted to invite you to “Parkinson’s Disease Check-up: What’s New, What’s Next in PD Management” today, Wednesday, April 7 at 4-5 PM (EST) with Daniel Kremens, M.D., co-director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Center and assistant professor of neurology at Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University.
    During this online check-up, Dr. Kremens will begin with a brief overview of recent developments in PD treatments, and why they may offer hope for patients and their loved ones. After the presentation, you will have the opportunity to ask Dr. Kremens questions about Parkinson’s disease, such as:
    • What does the latest research suggest about the best strategies for managing PD?
    • How close are we to finding a cure?
    • What can patients do to take control of their own PD?
    • What new therapies are currently in development for PD?
    Availability is limited for this one-time-only check-up, so please confirm your participation at your earliest convenience. Hopefully you are free today!
    Tammy Christian | Rx Mosaic Health | Assistant Account Executive | 711 Third Avenue, 18th Floor | New York, NY 10017 | t: 212.336.7521 | f: 212.336.7501| http://twitter.com/Rxpertise

  2. I think that electronic cigarettes are changing the lives of tobacco smokers and I have been smoke free for 6 months not thanks to this wonderful device. Great site!

  3. I didn’t know smoking can be good sometimes. WOW. Awesome information! However, if there’s 10% of people gets the benefits of smoking there’s still 90% belonging to those people who’ll die because of smoking.

  4. if you are a smoker, please test yourself by running, then assess if you are more physically fit before you began smoking or now. tha is how you determine for yourself.

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