Can Fasting Help Fend Off Parkinson’s Disease?

What we know about intermittent fasting and its impact on Parkinson’s

You’ve probably heard that fasting can cleanse your body and improve your health. But did you know it might dampen the effects of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s?

A promising study led by Dr. Mark Mattson of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine reveals how intermittent fasting — controlling caloric intake a couple of times per week — pushes our brains to perform in healthier ways. 1 According to Mattson’s work, lab experiments involving fasting can enhance neural connections in the hippocampus. They can also prevent neurons from attracting a protein called amyloid plaques, which is very common among patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

As Dr. Mattson explains it, “Fasting is a challenge to your brain, and we think that your brain reacts by activating adaptive stress responses that help it cope with disease. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense your brain should be functioning well when you haven’t been able to obtain food for a while.”

How Does Fasting Help With Parkinson’s?

According to Dr. Mattson, fasting helps turn fat into ketone bodies — encouraging a healthy transformation in the structure of synapses that are critical for learning and memory, as well as overall brain health. 3

Why does this work? Most people consume three full meals a day, along with a couple of snacks. Eating food this close together doesn’t give your body an opportunity to fire up the ketone factory. A similar response happens when we exercise — and Mattson points out that walking or working out is good for brain health as well. In either case, a healthier brain may help reduce the impact of Parkinson’s.

Dietary Strategies For Better Brain Health

There are many ways your diet can improve brain health. Dr. Mattson suggests two ways to try out a calorie-restricted diet. First, there’s the 5:2 diet. On two non-consecutive days each week, you consume a total of 500 calories. On the other five days, just stick with a normal diet, which is around 2,000 calories for women or 2,500 for men.

You can also experiment with a time-restricted diet, where you condense eating into a single eight-hour period every day. This gives your body the remaining 16 hours to begin burning fat and creating ketones.

For any diet involving fasting, Dr. Mattson offers some commonsense advice. “The analogy with exercise applies here as well,” he says. “If you’ve been sedentary and then all of a sudden you try to run five miles, it’s not very pleasant and you’ll likely get discouraged. It’s the same thing as if you’ve been eating three meals a day plus snacks, and then you’re not eating anything at all for two days; you’re not going to like it.”

Mattson recommends beginning slowly. Start with moderate fasting one day per week. When your body gets used to it, add a second day. Symptoms such as headaches, lightheadedness, and grouchiness are common but typically pass.

Managing the Symptoms of Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease3 that primarily affects the neurons in the brain. The signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors or shaking, trouble moving and loss of sense of smell. The disease may also contribute to the development of dementia.

Fasting may help reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s and other brain disorders in much the same way that exercise helps. A six-month study of the 5:2 diet, conducted by Mattson and other researchers, demonstrated an improvement in well-being. Dr. Mattson explains that a brain challenged by physical exertion, cognitive tasks or caloric restriction causes the body to produce a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factory). BDNF improves neural connections, helps create new neurons and can even be anti-depressive.

Treating Parkinson’s Disease

The new fasting regimes being explored by Dr. Mattson and others are part of a growing arsenal of weapons aimed at minimizing symptoms and maximizing quality of life for people coping with Parkinson’s. The good news? Parkinson’s is treatable.

Other Parkinson’s disease treatments include medication, physical therapy and lifestyle modifications, including dietary changes. Diet and nutrition play a huge role, as well as rest, improved sleep, enjoying fresh air and finding the right type of exercise. In addition, the emotional support provided by family, friends and caregivers cannot be overstated.

A Healthier Brain and a Better Life

Parkinson’s disease is a major challenge to one’s well-being and quality of life — physically, mentally and emotionally. Knowing what to expect from Parkinson’s can help you live life to the fullest. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to manage symptoms, promote brain health and live well with Parkinson’s.



6 Ways to Help Seniors Stay Physically Active as They Age

As we age, remaining physically active can become more difficult and exercise seems as though it takes a greater toll on our bodies. In fact, those are precisely the reasons as to why it’s so important for seniors to continue exercising. There are tons of benefits in staying physically active as you age 1, from reduced blood pressure to lower stress levels and diminished symptoms of anxiety and depression. The amount of benefits from exercise can go on and on.

Below are some great ways to promote healthy aging through physical activity.

Starting Out

Low-Level Physical Activity

It may not seem like much, but even walking around the house can make a huge difference in heart health among aging adults. According to a Surgeon General Report from the Center for Disease Control 1, seniors who log any level of physical activity whatsoever markedly decrease their chance of heart attack and stroke. Cleaning the house, taking a stroll to the mailbox, and even walking from room to room are all low-level activities that make a big contribution toward heart and brain health.

Studies also show many seniors have trouble with the word “exercise.” As physical abilities begin to decline in their later years, aging adults see the concept of exercise to be an overwhelmingly tall task. Therefore, it may help to avoid the word altogether and opt for phrases such as “physical activity” or “being active.”

Setting Goals

In a stage of life where one’s mental health is not where it used to be, confidence boosters are a must. These confidence boosters are even more productive if they’re accomplished through physical activities. Encouraging seniors to set challenging, yet easily attainable goals is highly recommended. Objectives such as “standing for 30 minutes a day” or “walking to the corner and back” can eventually evolve into more involved physical goals.

Healthy Aging With Other Seniors

Senior Centers

In addition to stimulating brain and mental health, senior centers are one of the best resources you can find when it comes to keeping aging adults physically active 2. No matter where you are, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll find a local senior center nearby. Nearly 10 million older adults utilize senior centers each year.

These facilities not only offer volunteer programs and organize social outings, many offer exercise classes as well. It’s not uncommon for your local senior center to have trained staff on site available to teach aging adults yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, and general aerobics classes. Some centers have opportunities for seniors to learn how to line, ballroom, or even square dance, all of which are all great exercise options for seniors.

Senior-Friendly Sports

Sports that require manageable levels of physical exertion are perfect for aging adults. Golf is a great example of a fairly accessible sport that promotes healthy aging among seniors, especially if they’ve been playing that sport throughout their lives. Even if a senior decides to use a cart, the sport still requires a moderate level of walking on grass that’s perfect for seniors looking to get active. Bowling, a casual game of frisbee, or tossing a tennis ball around are smart options as well.


Fall Prevention

Every 11 seconds, a senior citizen is treated at the ER for a fall 3. Aging adults may be averse to the idea of physical activity because of a perceived likelihood of fall risk. In fact, physical activity and exercise can greatly prevent the risk of falls in seniors, as it heightens one’s agility and ability to react.

That being said, there are some precautions to take when choosing the best exercises for fall prevention. First of all, talk to a doctor. The doctor can help identity the certain health conditions that can increase the likelihood of falls, including eye and ear conditions 4. Medications and history of past falls can influence the probability of a future incident. In the event that a senior is more prone to falls, supervised water workouts are ideal.

Wearing the proper footwear is another safety tip for avoiding injury. Make sure the senior is wearing shoes that fit correctly and have proper tread. There are types of shoes that can decrease joint painas well, so consider shopping around for footwear that is both safe and practical for exercise.

Be Aware of the Senior’s Environment

Many hazards that affect exercises for seniors actually have nothing to do with the seniors themselves. When coming up with physical activities, be sure the aging adult’s surroundings are safe. If it’s an outdoor activity, watch out for holes or errant balls when near a sports field. Additionally, if the weather is excessively warm, consider taking the activity inside. It’s important to note, however, that there can be dangers indoors as well. Remove glass tables or surfaces like small rugs or objects floors that can easily be slipped and tripped upon.


Every bit of physical activity helps when it comes to healthy aging. Utilize local resources like senior centers, find an activity that piques the senior’s interest, and staying safe all contribute to a senior’s ability to enjoy life into their later years.

The Balanced Care Method™ seeks to help seniors start and maintain a healthy activity level. The Balanced Care Method™ is a holistic program that promotes healthy diet, physical exercise, mental stimulation, socialization and sense of purpose. The program was built on studies demonstrating that only one-third of our longevity is based on genetics and two-thirds on lifestyle factors within our control.

Home Care Assistance caregivers are trained in the Balanced Care Method, offering the first senior care solution with an emphasis on balance and longevity. By working with specific lifestyle behaviors, Home Care Assistance caregivers extend and enhance the lives of seniors, helping them live longer, happier, lives at home. Learn more about how the Balanced Care Method™ can help your aging loved one today.



Blackcurrant Fruit Provides Brain Health Benefits

Scientists from Plant & Food Research in New Zealand, in collaboration with Northumbria University in the United Kingdom, assessed the effects of blackcurrants on cognitive health and found that the fruit improved attention and regulated mood.

New Zealand BlackcurrantsThe study was conducted on 36 healthy participants aged 18 to 35 years old who consumed one of three drinks: a sugar and taste-matched placebo which did not contain blackcurrant, an anthocyanin-enriched New Zealand blackcurrant extract (Delcyan™), or a cold-pressed juice from the New Zealand blackcurrant variety called ‘Blackadder’. After consuming 250ml of their assigned drink, the participants underwent mental performance tests and a blood test.

Results showed that both of the blackcurrant juices improved attention and mood and reduced mental fatigue. Blood tests also revealed that the blackcurrant juice decreased the activity of the monoamine oxidase enzyme (MAO), a family of enzymes that break down serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

Chemicals that inhibit the activity of MAO enzymes are often used to treat depression and other mood disorders such as stress and anxiety. They also work as treatments for neurodegenerative symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s occurs when neurons in the area of the brain controlling movement die and produce less dopamine, which contributes to the physical motor symptoms. Chemicals that can inhibit MAO enzymes prolong the effects of dopamine by preventing its breakdown and may also prevent the removal of dopamine between nerve cells, all of which help to combat symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Previous research on berries has found a multitude of benefits, including the slowing of cognitive decline associated with aging. Blueberries, in particular, have been proven to promote heart health, thereby increasing blood flow to the brain to boost cognitive health. Try incorporating some berries into your next smoothie along with a nutrient-rich, varied diet and a regimen of light physical activity for a brain-health boost. Home Care Assistance Denver