Don’t assume that as you age, so-called senior moments have to become a part of your future. Sure, everyone misplaces the keys occasionally. But by taking steps to maintain your brain health, you can keep your memory sharp, helping you to continue living independently and enjoying life to the fullest.
Having a bleeding disorder doesn’t make you more or less likely to experience age-related memory issues, but no doubt you and your loved ones will feel more confident in your ability to manage your condition if you make brain health a priority.
“If a person truly is serious about it and they’re ready to be proactive in taking care of themselves to decrease their odds of memory loss, there are lots of resources,” says Sabrina Farina, LMSW, a senior social worker at Gulf States Hemophilia and Thrombophilia Center in Houston.
Eat whole foods rich in brain-healthy nutrients. Berries, leafy greens, fish, nuts and seeds all contain vitamins, minerals and other compounds that studies show are associated with slower cognitive decline. “It’s changing that mind frame from ‘oh, this is tasty and delicious’ to thinking about how nutrition selections now benefit you,” Farina says. “What are the better choices for our bodies and our brains?”
Don’t try to take a shortcut to eating well by relying on supposed brain-health dietary supplements. The Global Council on Brain Health, an independent group of experts created by AARP in collaboration with Age UK, recently concluded that most older adults don’t benefit from such supplements.
Regular physical activity can help keep you fit and mentally sharp by increasing blood flow to the brain, reducing inflammation and strengthening areas of the brain thought to be involved in memory.
“Any type of blood-pumping activity is really good for your brain,” Farina says. “Incorporate activity into a routine schedule, and every day do something to help yourself not be sedentary.”
Sleep-deprived people have trouble concentrating and are more likely to make mistakes, especially behind the wheel or when handling machinery. Prioritizing sleep helps boost your cognitive abilities.
“You need between 7.5 and nine hours of sleep,” Farina says. “That’s when your brain regenerates itself and works to help you be healthy neurologically.”
Too much stress may hamper your cognitive abilities over time. When possible, skirt stressful situations, and learn coping mechanisms.
“Pick ways that you can decrease your stress and anxiety,” Farina says. “Meditation, deep breathing—all of that helps.”
Manage your health
If you’re diagnosed with diabetes or another chronic condition, it’s crucial to consider your bleeding disorder while managing that additional disease or complication. Have your hematologist or hemophilia treatment center team communicate with your other specialists. Also consider asking a pharmacist to review your medications, some of which may cause cognitive side effects.
“It’s definitely an extra layer for people with bleeding disorders who are managing other chronic conditions,” Farina says. “It’s like a domino effect: One impacts the other, as far as it eventually impacting our brain.”
Maintain social connections as you get older, because isolation may lead to depression or cognitive decline. And challenge yourself intellectually with games such as crossword and sudoku puzzles, which encourage your brain to function optimally.
“Be a lifelong learner, and be curious and willing to be engaged,” Farina says. “These things can stimulate and keep us challenged with our cognitive abilities.”
Find more information about healthy aging at Steps for Living