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Veterans’ Symposium on Parkinson’s Disease Risks and Resources To Be Held Virtually Next Month

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The Parkinson’s Foundation and the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs are holding a free Zoom symposium next month for U.S. veterans, providing information about the risk of Parkinson’s disease from herbicide exposure and other sources.

The virtual symposium, “Veterans and Parkinson’s Disease: What You Need To Know,” is being held on March 20, starting at 9 a.m. The VA and the foundation announced the symposium in a February 9 press release, indicating they hope to make attendees aware of new medical advances and other resources that may be available.

A disproportionate number of U.S. veterans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. There are about 1 million people in the U.S. with the movement disorder, and about 110,000 of those are veterans of military service.

While the exact causes of Parkinson’s disease are not always known, both genetic and environmental factors are believed to play important roles, and several studies have identified links between certain herbicides and Parkinson’s disease, such as paraquat and Agent Orange, which is a defoliant used during the Vietnam War to thin out the jungles in the Mekong River Delta.

In addition to a high military population, those with Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. are often older as well; usually over the age of 65. The Parkinson’s Foundation notes that as “Baby Boomers” continue to age, the number of older veterans with Parkinson’s disease will increase.

“We understand that most people with Parkinson’s develop symptoms at 50 years of age or older. As the population ages, so will the number of Americans living with Parkinson’s – including veterans,” John L. Lehr, president and chief executive officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation, said in the press release. “Serving those who have served our country is a priority of the Parkinson’s Foundation and we’re honored to partner with the VA to provide this online program to help veterans live better with Parkinson’s disease.”

Participants will receive information from Parkinson’s disease experts, mental health specialists, and veterans who have learned to live with the disease. Participation is free, but attendees must register at www.parkinson.org/sevets or register by calling 770-450-0792.

The symposium comes as a growing number of studies in recent years have highlighted the potential Parkinson’s disease risks from paraquat herbicides, suggesting that individuals may face risks from handling, transporting, mixing or applying the grass and weed killer, even when safety precautions provided by the manufacturers are followed.

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