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Parkinson’s: Do Race Or Income Matter?

BALTIMORE (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Parkinson’s disease affects a million Americans and 10 million people around the world. But new research indicates how an individual fares with Parkinson’s is related to how they live.

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William “Tank” Hill is now taking the hits he once threw. The former professional welterweight fighter who was once featured in newspaper articles is proud of his boxing record.

“I had 22 professional fights and lost 7. I’ve never been knocked out,” William “Tank” Hill, Former Boxer, told Ivanhoe.

The 72-year old trainer doesn’t plan on letting Parkinson’s disease knock him out either. Diagnosed in 2002, the illness has left him with a tremor and softer speech.

“My wife is setting up an appointment with some doctor about my speech,” Hill said. Research out of the University of Maryland medical center finds race, education and income are significant factors in determining a patient’s level of disability from Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Zoltan Mari is a neurologist at Johns Hopkins.

“We have enough data to suggest there are disparities,” Zoltan Mari, M.D., at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute in Baltimore, told Ivanhoe.

This latest study focused on more than 1,000 patients who were seen by a movement disorders specialist. The researchers found African Americans, and those with lower socioeconomic status and less education had more severe disease and less independence than other groups.

“If you’re better educated you’re more likely to use the Internet, more likely to do your part to get the highest level of care,” Dr. Mari added.

54-year old Debora Bergstrom ignored her symptoms until tremors and tripping stopped her from working. Today the mother of three and chemistry teacher attributes her ability to stay active and live a normal life to good healthcare, medication and family support.

“You have to learn everything you can about the illness because it’s so variable from person to person and knowing what to do makes a huge difference,” Debora Bergstrom, a chemistry teacher, told Ivanhoe.

Hill says he’s satisfied with the care he’s received for Parkinson’s.

“I got Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s ain’t got me,” Hill concluded.

The study also found that African Americans were less likely to receive medication for their Parkinson’s disease and less likely to receive newer medications, which tend to cost more.

Dr. Zoltan Mari
Assistant Professor of Neurology
The Johns Hopkins Hospital
Department of Neurology

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