Many people think of a healthy brain as an aging-related issue, but nurses know how important brain health is across the life span. Some of the habits and practices people develop early in life can impact their brain health decades later. If you know of a few habits you’d like to change, it’s never too late to start focusing on small steps to get you to a goal.

There are many diseases, conditions, and stages that impact the brain–including Alzheimer’s, stroke, injury, or even menopause–so supporting your brain health is essential. Luckily, it’s not an all-or-nothing approach.

What can you do to help keep your brain healthy? Here are four easy tips you can try during June’s Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.

Keep Everything Moving
Whether it’s your body with physical activity or your brain with mental activity, staying in motion and engaged with the world makes a difference. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the brain benefits from all the good things you do for the rest of your body. Keeping your body healthy with exercise also keeps your brain healthy, so continue to keep moving. And you don’t have to run marathons or bike dozens of miles. Taking a short walk on most days is more important for your brain than running 10 miles twice a month.

Stay Socially Connected
If you’re going for a walk, invite a friend. Prefer to walk alone? Call someone you’d like to catch up with this week. Even a short 15-minute phone call with someone you care about delivers important brain benefits. You’ll reduce stress, maintain those important connections, and probably laugh–one of the most healing parts of friendships.

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Be Open to Learning
Our brains like new stimulation and, in fact, thrive on it.  New activities, unusual facts, a different hobby, or learning a new language all bestow a real impact on the brain. As you learn something new, you’re forcing the brain to adapt and that helps keep your mind sharp. Like the other suggestions, this habit doesn’t require a lot of time. You can spend a half hour on your commute listening to podcasts about something you know nothing about or to begin the foundation of understanding a new language. You can try a new route to a familiar place or see how well you do at crosswords or Wordle. Resist the urge to stick with what’s familiar–shaking things up rewards you in many ways.

See Sleep as Medicine
If someone said you can take a pill to help prevent memory loss, improve your mood, and even keep your weight regulated, would you do it? If you start to look at sleep as medicine, you’ll realize why prioritizing your sleep can improve the quality of your life now and in the future. Even young, busy nurses should realize that a bad night’s sleep can have a significant impact on their on-the-job tasks as it can dull your ability to remember and recall important tasks the next day. Start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier and resisting the urge to watch one more show or scroll through one more post. Sleep and brain health are closely linked.

Keeping your brain healthy is important throughout your life. It’s always a good time to make changes–and any change is better than no change at all. The benefits are worth it now, and your future self will thank you.

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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