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Keep the brain young


Last updated 3/13/2020 at 4:13am

FALLBROOK – The Fallbrook Parkinson Support group will hold their monthly meeting, Friday, March 27, from 10 a.m. to noon in the Fellowship Hall of Christ the King Lutheran Church, 1620 S. Stage Coach Lane, in Fallbrook.

The guest speaker this month is Dr. Mindy Bixby, presenting “Taking ‘on’ Parkinson’s disease.” She is a neurologist and movement disorder specialist with Scripps Medical Group and is board certified with the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatric.

Bixby will explain how to keep the brain young, even as the body ages.

As people get older, it’s common for them to experience some cognitive decline like forgetting people’s names, losing track of time and other instances that they often chalk up to “senior moments.”

However, Bixby said making a few lifestyle changes can help keep the brain healthy well into old age and may prevent or slow the onset of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“I want to prevent people from needing to come see me,” Bixby said. “That’s my goal.”

Modest changes can improve memory, mood and mental acuity. Here are six ways to maintain brain health:

To stay sharp in those senior years, follow the six pillars of brain health outlined below. Incorporating these tips can improve neurotransmitter health and produce dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which, in turn, can lead to a longer, healthier life.

Eat brain-healthy foods.

The U.S. has one of the highest rates of autoimmune disease in the world, and it’s believed that regular consumption of processed food is a factor. But a diet based around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and quality proteins can be beneficial to brain health.

“Nutrition is extremely important to brain heath,” Bixby said. “Picture what you choose to put in your mouth becoming part of you, and be thoughtful about what you’re doing to your body.”

Rest the brain.

Sleep is restorative. While a person is asleep, their brain is not inactive; it’s laying down memories and clearing out amyloids, a waste product left over from metabolic processes that in large amounts has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Good sleep hygiene is key: remove devices and distractions from the sleeping space, limit exercise within two hours of bedtime, avoid big meals and excess water before bed and, if all else fails, choose organic melatonin, sleep-inducing tea or other natural products over other sleep aids.

Manage overall health.

People are probably aware that a poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking can harm their heart, lungs, kidneys and other parts of the body. But those same lifestyle choices that impact their body can also affect their brain.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity have all been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

“Over time, many medical conditions can be really hard on your brain health because your body can only tolerate so much,” Bixby said.

There are some risk factors for dementia, like genetics, that people can’t control. But they can lower their risk of cognitive decline by staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, managing stress and keeping their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar in a healthy range.

Play brain games.

Learning new things can prompt the brain to sprout new neurons.

Bixby said this activity becomes especially important in retirement, when seniors should continue to be engaged somehow. Social interaction, new relationships and stimulating conversations are integral to brain health, too.

“The social aspect of what happens when people feel heard and like they’re a part of other people’s lives is extremely important,” Bixby said.

Stay active.

Get at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. Exercise increases oxygen to the brain, boosts brain waste disposal and stimulates motor and sensory systems.

“If you’re exercising, you’re exercising your brain,” Bixby said. “If your brain is not getting oxygen from exercise and clearing this debris on a regular basis, you’re decreasing the possibility of fighting off disease and the aging process.”

Reduce or manage stress.

Stress and its associated hormone cortisol can, over time, cause an inflammatory response that leads to the formation of free radicals that may damage normal brain functions, Bixby said. Develop tools to get through stressful moments, like breathing exercises, journaling or yoga.

Amneal Pharmaceutical is hosting the meeting this month. Coffee and refreshments will be provided. Break out groups held for a time of sharing follow the program. The meeting is held in support of Persons with Parkinson’s disease, care partners and people interested in improving the world of those affected by Parkinson’s disease.

Fallbrook Parkinson’s Support Group is an affiliate group of North County Parkinson’s Support Group,

For more information, call Irene at (760) 731-0171 or Vicki at (760) 728-7117.

In addition, the community is invited to join the group in support of the Parkinson’s Association of San Diego in the upcoming annual fundraising 5K Walk, Saturday, April 4, at Liberty Station. Walk in support of their team “Fallbrook Friendly Village Folks,” donate to the cause or help spread the word.

For more information, visit

Submitted by Fallbrook Parkinson’s Support Group.


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