Parkinson's Disease is Deadlier for Some

Parkinsons deaths higher if dementia or other characteristics also exist

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Parkinson's disease has many possible symptoms.  Researchers have found some groups of Parkinson's patients more often than others have negative outcomes.

New research shows that Parkinson's disease patients with dementia die most often, as compared with other groups. The researchers found women die less often than men. Hispanics and Asians die less often than other races.

"Disease affects people differently, ask your doctor for details."

Dr. Allison Willis, neurology researcher at Washington University medical school in St. Louis, says the study showed Parkinson’s disease patients had a death risk:

  • Almost four times higher than people without the disease
  • Nearly two times higher than people with colorectal cancer, ischemic heart disease or stroke
  • Almost the same as people who had broken a hip or experienced a heart attack.

During the six-year study, 64 percent of Parkinson's disease patients died, but the disease likely was not always the main cause of death. The study showed that patients with terminal Parkinson's disease were hospitalized frequently for infection or cardiovascular disease but rarely for Parkinson's disease.

During the study, which ended in 2008:

  • Women with Parkinson’s disease had a 26 percent lower death rate than men.
  • African Americans had the highest death rate (66 percent), followed by whites (65 percent), Hispanics (55 percent) and Asians (51 percent).
  • Almost 70 percent of the people with Parkinson’s developed dementia. They had a higher death rate (72 percent) than patients without dementia (46 percent).

Nearly 70 percent of all the Parkinson's disease patients developed dementia. African Americans had the highest dementia rate, 78 percent. Dementia rates among other races were Hispanics (73 percent), whites (69 percent), and Asians (67 percent). The findings come from a study of 138,000 Medicare beneficiaries with Parkinson's disease.

Statistics were similar nationwide. The only environmental difference was a slightly higher death rate among people with Parkinson's who lived in urban areas with emissions of industrial metals.

"It is clear that additional research is needed to develop ways to diagnose and treat cognitive impairment (e.g., dementia) in Parkinson's disease," the Parkinson's Disease Foundation commented in a news release about the study.

Dr. Willis published the observational study online in the January issue of the Archives of Neurology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 10, 2012
Last Updated:
January 15, 2012