Middle-aged People Have Up to 20-Year Window to Reduce PD Risk, Oxford Health Policy Report Says

Middle-aged People Have Up to 20-Year Window to Reduce PD Risk, Oxford Health Policy Report Says

In calling for a public health campaign to promote a brain-healthy lifestyle, an Oxford Health Policy Forum report says people in middle age have a 10- to 20-year window of opportunity to potentially reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s (PD), or to delay progression.

“The process of neurodegeneration begins many years before symptoms appear, and it may take years for an at-risk individual to progress through the presymptomatic and prodromal disease phases until a clinical diagnosis can be made,” the report’s executive summary said.

Called “Time Matters: A Call to Prioritize Brain Health,” the report condenses published evidence and the consensus findings of a group of international multidisciplinary experts. It’s meant to encourage individuals to prioritize their own brain health, and to challenge policymakers, scientists, medical professionals, and organizations that fund research and programs to collaborate in planning for healthcare structures.

Focusing on Parkinson’s as well as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the report summarizes key risk factors for both disorders, and discusses how lifestyle changes can improve brain health. It also explores challenges to the introduction of population screening-type programs — successful in some areas of medicine, including cancer — in neurodegenerative diseases, noting the potential for false positive test results that can cause undue anxiety.

To prepare for future scientific advances, the publication calls for continuing the search for effective diagnostic tools, biomarkers, therapeutic targets and treatments. In addition, it promotes “big data” as a way to help identify links between brain diseases and causative factors, which could advance drug target identification. The report also concludes that wearable technology could be increasingly useful in tracking disease courses and in personalized healthcare.

Because lifestyle changes have been shown to improve both cardiovascular and brain health, the report recommends wide public-health dissemination of the message, “What’s good for your heart is generally good for your brain.” And since healthcare professionals and administrators will continue to play key roles in disease management, they should make sure that individuals are referred to specialists and get follow-up care referrals that includes multidisciplinary services, holistic care, prevention information, and treatment options, the publication said.

The 47-page report also includes a host of research recommendations, including understanding that people’s awareness of their risks for neurodegenerative disease may motivate them to change behaviors. Researchers should also learn how best to support those changes, it said.

“We cannot change our genetic make-up, but we can help reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases ourselves by taking exercise, keeping socially active, eating healthily, reducing alcohol intake, stopping smoking and keeping our brains active,” Alastair Noyce, co-chair of the report’s author group, and a professor at Queen Mary University of London, said in a press release.

As people live longer, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s are becoming more common — and presenting a growing socioeconomic burden. But such diseases are not an inevitable consequence of normal aging, said Gavin Giovannoni, author group chair and also a professor at Queen Mary.

“Planning for the healthcare structures of the future has to start now if we’re to avoid a crisis,” he said.

The report’s 10 primary writers are from the U.K., the U.S., the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. It was funded through educational grants from biotechnology company Biogen and multinational healthcare company F. Hoffmann-La Roche.

The Oxford Health Policy Forum works to develop and support initiatives aimed at improving global public health, particularly in areas of unmet medical needs.

Mary M. Chapman began her professional career at United Press International, running both print and broadcast desks. She then became a Michigan correspondent for what is now Bloomberg BNA, where she mainly covered the automotive industry plus legal, tax and regulatory issues. A member of the Automotive Press Association and one of a relatively small number of women on the car beat, Chapman has discussed the automotive industry multiple times of National Public Radio, and in 2014 was selected as an honorary judge at the prestigious Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance. She has written for numerous national outlets including Time, People, Al-Jazeera America, Fortune, Daily Beast, MSN.com, Newsweek, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. The winner of the Society of Professional Journalists award for outstanding reporting, Chapman has had dozens of articles in The New York Times, including two on the coveted front page. She has completed a manuscript about centenarian car enthusiast Margaret Dunning, titled “Belle of the Concours.”
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Ana holds a PhD in Immunology from the University of Lisbon and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Instituto de Medicina Molecular (iMM) in Lisbon, Portugal. She graduated with a BSc in Genetics from the University of Newcastle and received a Masters in Biomolecular Archaeology from the University of Manchester, England. After leaving the lab to pursue a career in Science Communication, she served as the Director of Science Communication at iMM.
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Mary M. Chapman began her professional career at United Press International, running both print and broadcast desks. She then became a Michigan correspondent for what is now Bloomberg BNA, where she mainly covered the automotive industry plus legal, tax and regulatory issues. A member of the Automotive Press Association and one of a relatively small number of women on the car beat, Chapman has discussed the automotive industry multiple times of National Public Radio, and in 2014 was selected as an honorary judge at the prestigious Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance. She has written for numerous national outlets including Time, People, Al-Jazeera America, Fortune, Daily Beast, MSN.com, Newsweek, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. The winner of the Society of Professional Journalists award for outstanding reporting, Chapman has had dozens of articles in The New York Times, including two on the coveted front page. She has completed a manuscript about centenarian car enthusiast Margaret Dunning, titled “Belle of the Concours.”
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